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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/269

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257
ADELBERT VON CHAMISSO AS A NATURALIST.

to be largely absorbed in details. It must first be recollected that lie regarded himself as a systematic botanist. Shortly after his return to Berlin he received a position as assistant in the Botanical Institute—at first in the Botanical Garden, and afterward in the Herbarium—and filled that office till his death. He also, at the suggestion of Minister von Altenstein, composed a little botanical text-book for the use of schools, in the introduction to which he laid down his general views on organization and systematics. A memorial of his botanical work was published shortly after his death by his friend and former colleague von Schlechtendahl, in Linnæa, in which, under the running title De plantis in expeditione Romanzofiana observatis (On the Plants observed in the Romanzoff Expedition), several of Chamisso's plants were familiarly described. A modest plant of the family of the unwilting amaranths (Chamissoa, Kunth) preserves his name in systematic botany. His favorite plants were those of the water, particularly the Potamogetai.

Chamisso's discoveries on the voyage began when he descried, even on the English coast at Plymouth, a species (Centaurea nigrescens) which had escaped the local botanists. In several places, as at Teneriffe and in Brazil, he was pre vented from making important collections by the rainy season, and in Chili by the burning summer heat; but he obtained nearly the whole of the flora of the Radak chain, and the coast of California, which had been rarely visited by botanists, afforded much that was new; among others, the papaver called after his fellow-voyager Eschscholtzia californica, the seeds of which he brought home with him, and the brilliant flowers of which still adorn our gardens. The islands of the Arctic Ocean, between America and Asia, furnished a rich spoil in their Alpine flora, which strongly reminded him of the Alpine meadows of Switzerland. So sharp and skilled had his vision become, which he had begun to train to the observation of natural objects three years before his journey, that, botanizing on Table Mountain at the Cape of Good Hope with Mundt, of Berlin, who was sojourning there, he found, as at Plymouth, several plants that had until then escaped notice.

Schlechtendahl can not sufficiently praise the magnanimous unselfishness with which Chamisso, after his return home, surrendered his specimens to be examined by other botanists who seemed better fitted by their studies to that work. Thus, he sent to the Swedish algologue, Agardh, a collection of algæ, among which was a rare double form found at the Cape, a living fucoid (F. confervicola or Sphærococcus) on a conferva (C. mirabilis or hospiia). Agardh, who was a little too earnest a transformist, and believed that certain algæ could become animals, imagined that in this case the one form was changed into the other—a view which, true