Watts, Matthew .
Seeds of Knowledge: Dutch Botany in Brazil and Southeast Asia (1596-1696).
This paper examines the influence and importance of cross-cultural exchange in the development of Dutch botany in the seventeenth century. Focusing principally on the work of four Dutch East India Company (VOC) and West India Company (GWC) botanists (Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, Georg Markgraf, Hendrik van Rheede, and Georg Eberhard Rumphius), I argue that “exotic” botanical specimens collected, classified and then propagated in Europe depended heavily upon the cooperation and efforts of indigenous Brazilian and Southeast Asian herbalists, politico-religious leaders, merchants and others who actively engaged in the process. Ultimately, the specimens collected by these botanists with the aid of the indigenous peoples they encountered would bring about the classification debates of the eighteenth century, culminating in the binomial nomenclature of Linnaeus. Botanically, the contribution of these Brazilian and Southeast Asian individuals was vital for European knowledge of several plant species, including: Canna indica, Mangifera, Syzygium malaccense, Piper, Dysphania ambrosioides, Aloe, Smilax regelii, Carica papaya, Musa, Artocarpus heterophyllus, Strychnos nux-vomica, Psychotria ipecacuanha and several others. Often, the seventeenth century classifications employed to describe these “exotics” were nothing more than Latinized versions of their indigenous names--clear indications of the cross-cultural nature of early modern Dutch botany. With all of these various specimens pouring into Europe from Brazil, Southeast Asia and other locales, a reliable taxonomic system became a necessity for future botanical research. Indeed, the very invention of the Linnaean taxonomy was itself engendered by the "global botanical neighborhood" of the Dutch Golden Age (seventeenth century).
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1 - University of Alabama, Department of History, Box 870212, Tuscaloosa, AL, 35487, United States
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for BSA Sections
Location: Alpine A/Snowbird Center
Date: Monday, July 27th, 2009
Time: 8:00 AM