the honorable Rafinesque

Steven R. Hill srhill at INHS.UIUC.EDU
Fri Feb 20 15:33:52 CST 2004

Thank you John, and I could not agree with you more.

Funny how certain events of long ago still can make hairs bristle.

Rafinesque has been maligned for years for no good reason other than
because he was energetic and went to great pains to contribute his
knowledge to science.  He was also trusting, I might add, as your example
clearly shows. Certainly his plant species are well known to all us
botanists, and I consider him one of our heroes.  Think of the times in
which he lived, and how exciting North America was to a person of his
curiosity and mental skills at that time.  I think that many of those who
maligned him were either envious, inappropriately nationalistic, or
bullies, or felt inadequate that their contributions and publications paled
in comparison to his.  He was eccentric, I would admit, but who in our
field is not ?  It would be terribly boring and sterile a field without
people like C.S. Rafinesque-Schmaltz and their contributions.


At 02:04 PM 2/20/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>On Fri, 20 Feb 2004, Richard Petit wrote:
> > ...
> > One of my favorites in Mollusca is the "trivalved" freshwater mollusk that
> > Audubon invented and described to the idiot Rafinesque who drew it and
> named
> > it.  He later reprinted his figure and named it again so that this
> imaginary
> > creature has two generic and two specific names.
> > ...
>Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz (1783-1840) was no idiot.  He
>accomplished a great deal considering he never had an adequate library at
>his disposal.  It is not his fault that he was duped by the evil Audubon
>into believing the paintings of fake fish et ali sent to him were real.
>Rafinesque smashed Audubon's violin when he threw it at a bat he was
>trying to collect in their cabin. To pay him back, the devious Audubon
>painted about a dozen imaginary fish that Rafinesque included descriptions
>of in his book Fishes of Ohio (1820). Rafinesque was ruined and died
>penniless in a Philadelphia attic because he had trusted Audubon.
>         John
>* Mr. John C. Bruner                                 *
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Dr. Steven R. Hill (Plant Systematics)
Center for Wildlife and Plant Ecology (WPE)
Illinois Natural History Survey
607 East Peabody Drive
Champaign, Illinois 61820, U.S.A.

Phone: (217) 244-8452
Fax: (217) 333-4949
srhill at

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