Lyonet, Peter

, an eminent naturalist, was born at Maestricht July 22, 1707. He was of a French family, originally of Lorraine, whence they were obliged to take refuge in Switzerland, on account of their religion. His father, Benjamin Lyonet, was a protestant minister at Heufdon. In his early years he displayed uncommon activity both of body and mind, with a memory so prompt, that he acquired an exact knowledge of nine languages, ancient and modern, and in the farther pursuit of his academical studies at Leyden, made great progress in logic, philosophy, geometry, and algebra. It was his father’s wish that he should study divinity, with a view to the church, and it appears that he might have passed by an easy transition to any of the learned professions. The law, however, was his ultimate destination; and he applied himself to this with so much zeal, that he was promoted the first year, when he delivered a thesis “on the use of the torture,” which was published, and gained him considerable reputation. At what time he settled at the Hague we are not told, but there he was made decypherer, translator of the Latin and French languages, and patent-master to the States General. It was now that he turned his attention to natural history, especially entomology, and undertook an historical description of such insects as are found about the Hague; and as, among his other accomplishments, he understood drawing, he enriched his work with a great number of plates, which were much admired by the connoisseurs. In 1741 a French translation of Lesser’s “Theology of Insects” was printed at the Hague, which induced Mr. Lyonet to defer the publication of his own work, and make some observations on Lesser’s, to which he added two beautiful plates designed by himself. His observations were thought of so much importance that Reaumur caused the above translation to be reprinted at Paris, merely on account of them. Lyonet afterwards executed drawings of the fresh water polypes for Mr. Trembley’s beautiful work, in 1744. Wandelaar had engraved the first five plates of this work, and being rather dilatory in producing the rest, Lyonet took a | single lesson in engraving, and executed the others himself in a manner which astonished not only amateurs, but experienced artists. In 1748 his reputation procured him the honour of being elected a member of the royal society of London, as he xvas afterwards of other learned societies in Europe. In 1764- appeared his magnificent work on. the caterpillar, “Traite anatomique de la Chenille qui ronge le bois de Saule.” In order to enable such as might be desirous of following him in his intricate and astonishing discoveries respecting the structure of this animal, he published, in the Transactions of the Dutch society of sciences, at Haerlem, a description and plate of the instrument and tools he had invented for the purpose of dissection, and likewise of the method he used to ascertain the degree of strength of his magnifying glasses. Mr. Lyonet died at the Hague, Jan. 10, 1789, leaving some other works on entomology unfinished, one of the most extensive collections of shells in Europe, and a very fine cabinet of pictures. In his early years, Mr. Lyonet practised sculpture and portrait-painting. Of the former, his Apollo and the Muses, a basso relievo cut in palm wood, is mentioned by Van Gool, in his “Review of the Dutch Painters,” as a masterpiece. To these many accomplishments Mr. Lyonet added a personal character which rendered him admired during his long life, and deeply regretted when his friends and his country were deprived of his services. 1


Dict. Hist.Gent. Mag. vol. LIX.