Gærtner, Joseph

, an eminent botanist, was born at Calw, in the duchy of Wirtemberg, March 12, 1732. His father, physician to the duke of Wirtemberg, and his mother, both died in his early youth. He was at first destined by his surviving relations for the church, and when he disliked that, the law. was recommended; but at length, from an early bias towards the study of natural history, he resorted to physic, as most congenial to his disposition, and removed to the university of Gottingen, in the 19th year of his age. Here the lectures of Halier and others instructed him in anatomy, physiology, and botany, but he studied these rather for his own information and amusement, than as a means of advancement in the practice of physic. After this he undertook a tour through Italy, France, and England, in the pursuit of knowledge in botany. On his return he took the degree of M. D. and published an inaugural dissertation on the urinary secretion, after which he devoted two years to the study of mathematics, optics, and mechanics, constructing with his own hands a telescope, as well as a common and solar microscope. In the summer of 1759 he attended a course of botanical lectures at Leyden, under the celebrated Adrian Van Royen. He had for some time acquired the use of the pencil, in which he eminently excelled, and which subsequently proved of the greatest use to him in enabling him to draw the beautiful and accurate figures of | the books he published. Having bestowed great attention upon the obscurer tribes of marine animals and plants, particularly with a view to the mode of propagation of the latter, as well as of, other cryptogamic vegetables, he revisited England, and spent some time here, as well in scrutinizing the productions of our extensive and varied coasts, as in conversing with those able naturalists Ellis, Collinson, Baker, and others, who were assiduously engaged in similar pursuits. He communicated a paper to the royal society on the polype called Urtica marina, and the Actinia of Linnseus, comprehending descriptions and figures of several species, which is printed in the 52d volume of the Philosophical Transactions; and he prepared several essays on the anatomy of fishes, and other obscure matters of animal and vegetable physiology, part of which only has hitherto been made public. Soon afterwards Dr. Gsertner became a member of the royal society of London, and of the imperial academy of sciences at Petersburg. In 1768, he was instituted professor of botany and natural history at Petersburg, and about a year afterwards he began to plan and prepare materials for the great work on which his eminent reputation rests, the object of which was the illustration of fruits and seeds for the purposes above-mentioned. His situation at Petersburg, however, seems not to have suited either his health or disposition. After having performed a journey into the Ukraine, in which he collected many new or obscure plants, he resigned his professorship at the end of two years, steadily refusing the pension ordinarily attached to it, and retired in the autumn of 17 70 -to his native town, where he married. At the end of eight years he found it necessary, for the perfection of his intended work, to re-visit some of the seats of science in which he had formerly studied, in order to re-examine several botanical collections, and to converse again with persons devoted to similar inquiries with his own. Above all, he was anxious to profit by the discoveries of the distinguished voyagers Banks and Solander, who received him with open arms on his arrival at London, in 1778, and, with the liberality which ever distinguished their characters, freely laid before him all their acquisitions, and assisted him with their own observations and discoveries. A new genus was dedicated to Gaertner by his illustrious friends in their manuscripts; but this being his own sphenoclea, has been superseded by another and | a finer plant. He visited Thunberg in his return through Amsterdam, that distinguished botanist and traveller being then lately arrived from Japan; nor were the acquisitions of Gartner less considerable from this quarter. He further enriched himself from the treasures at Leyden, laid open to him by his old friend Van lloyen; and arrived at home laden with spoils destined to enrich his intended publication. Here, however, his labours and his darling pursuits were interrupted by a severe disorder in his eyes, which for many months threatened total blindness; nor was it till after an intermission of four or five years that he was able to resume his studies.

At length he gave to the public the first volume of his long-expected work, “De fructibus et sem’mihus plantarum,” printed at Stutgard in 1788, and containing the essential generic characters, with particular descriptions of the fruit of 500 genera, illustrated by figures of each, admirably drawn by himself, and neatly engraved in 79 quarto plates; a long anatomical and physiological introduction is prefixed, in which he define* and explains the nature of the parts of fructification, especially of the fruit and seed. In this essay he denies the existence of real flowers, and consequently of proper seeds, in fungi, and other cryptogamic vegetables, in which Hedwig and others, conceive they had detected the organs of impregnation as well as real seeds. Gaertner considers the Litter as gemma: or buds, and not seeds produced by sexual impregnation. He even denies the celebrated Hedwigian theory of mosses. He changes the name of germen, applied by Linnæus to the rudiments of the fruit in old plants, to the old and erroneous term ovarium. In the detail of his work he often corrects the great Swedish naturalist, with more or less justice, but not always with candour, and changes his names frequently for the worse. In synonyms he is not always exact, copying them, as it appears, from errors of the press occasionally transcribed from other authors, without turning to the books quoted.

In the definition and anatomical elucidation of the parts of the seed, Gaertner is truly excellent; and, notwithstanding some slight defects, his work marks an sera in botanical science, not only directing, but even forcing the attention of botanists to parts which the Lin niean school had too much neglected, but which cnn never in future be overlooked. The second volume of this immortal work | Appeared in- 1791, illustrating 500 more genera, on the same plan with the former, in 101 plates, in which the compound flowers are treated with peculiar care and success. The preface of this volume is dated April 6, 1791, but little more than three months before the death of the author, which happened on the 14th of July, 1791, in the sixtieth year of his age. He is said, though struggling for some time preceding with debility and disease, to have finished a description and drawing of the Halleria lucida but the evening before his departure. He left one son, to whom he gave an excellent education, and who has proved worthy of his distinguished father, in publishing his inedited works, and continuing with success the same inquiries. 1

1 Sims and Konig’s Annals of Botany, vol. I. p. 73. -Rees’s Cycloptedia, Deleuze’s Biog. Memoir of Gartner.