Jacques Huber: connecting Switzerland, France and Brazil

Huber was born in Schleitheim, Canton Schaffhausen, on October 13, 1867. He graduated in Natural History at the University of Basel. Aged 21, Huber went to Montpellier, France, where he studied with Charles Flahault (1852-1935), well known for his works on phytosociology and the development of plant ecology. Huber concluded the doctorate in Botany in 1893. The following year he settled in Genève as assistant of Robert Chodat (1865-1934), an eminent professor of the Institute of Botany at the local university. In 1895, Huber was hired by the Museu Paraense de História Natural e Etnografia, in Belém, Brazil (actually Goeldi Museum). He developed in this institution most of his valuable work, reaching the directorship between 1907 and 1914, when he deceased. 

Huber has authored extensive work within taxonomy, phytogeography, plant ecology, and agronomy. He worked extensively inventorying the Amazonian flora, analyzing the geographic distribution of many tree species, describing plant associations, studying the relationship between plants and social insects, assessing the problems and the potential of agricultural production in the Amazon during the period of greatest impact of ‘rubber economy’ in the national and international context. His studies were the basis on which many generations of researchers worked. He also managed the botanical garden of the Goeldi Museum, assembled collections, organized exhibitions, lectured, wrote popular science texts and was for 19 years one of the most important advisers to the Government of Pará on matters related to international rubber trade. 

Despite political and economic context had been imperative in shaping the work of Huber, the training years in Basel and Montpellier were fundamental to define how the Amazonian Rainforest was studied by the botanist. His publications clearly demonstrate the theoretical affiliation to the School of Plant Sociology. We could cite his studies on botanical geography of Guyana, Amapá, Marajó and Pará coast, the furos (small water courses) of Breves, the savannas of Lower Amazon, the vegetation of Purus and Japurá Rivers, and the distribution of fruit trees, rubber trees and timber. 

The research will compile the work of Jacques Huber, including plant collections and nomenclatural types. An intellectual biography will be produced, highlighting the most important moments in his career, such as training in Basel and Montpellier, his links to scientific institutions in Europe and Brazil, the services he provided to the Government of Pará, the travels and scientific expeditions, his personal motivations, publications and museological practices. The analysis will identify his theoretical influences, partners, and contributions to the development of science in an international perspective. It will also increase knowledge about the history of botany and plant ecology in Brazil, including institutional and political aspects related to these sciences.

Nelson Sanjad

No comments:

Post a Comment