Donati, Vitaliano

, an eminent botanist, was born at Padua in 1717, of a noble family, but addicted himself to science, and under the ablest professors of the university of his native city, studied medicine, natural history, botany, and mathematics. After taking his doctor’s degree in medicine, he more particularly cultivated natural history, and frequently went to Dalmatia in pursuit of curious specimens. In 1750 he published a small folio, with plates, entitled “Delia Storia Naturale Marina dell' Adriatico,” to which his friend Sesler subjoined the botanical history of a plant named after him Vitaliana. This work was afterwards translated into several languages. The same year, he was appointed professor of natural history and botany at Turin. After having travelled several times over the maritime Alps, he undertook, by order of the king, an expedition to the East Indies. Arriving at Alexandria, he went thence to Cairo, and after visiting a considerable part of Egypt, penetrated into those countries that were then unknown to European travellers. On his return he died at Bassora, of a putrid fever, in 1763. He had previously packed up two cases of collections of natural history, and two large volumes of observations made during his travels, which were to be conveyed to Turin by the way of Lisbon; but at the latter place, it is said, they were kept a long time, not without some suspicion of their having been opened, &c. It is certain, however, that both the collections and the manuscripts were lost by some means or other. Ferber, who gives some account of Donati in his “Letters on Mineralogy,” thinks he was not very | remarkable for his botanical knowledge, but a first-rate connoisseur in petrifactions, corals, zoophytes, and, in general, in the knowledge of all marine bodies. He adds that his enemies were zealous in their endeavours to injure his reputation; affirming that he was still alive in Persia, where he resided in disguise, and appropriated to his own use the remittances that had been granted for the purposes of his voyage, all which Ferber considers as a ridiculous fable. After his death, was published his “Dissertation sur le corail noir.1


Dict. Hist.—Month. Rev. vol. LV.