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Abstract Detail

Historical Section

Bonifacino, Mauricio [1], Robinson, Harold [2], Funk, Vicki A. [2], Lack, Walter [3], Wagenitz, Gerhard [4], Feuillet, Christian [5], Hind, Nicholas [6].

Cassini the 5th, Master of Compositae: insight into his life and work.

A member of an illustrious family of French astronomers, Alexandre-Henri-Gabriel de Cassini (1781-1832) developed at a young age a profound interest in Nature that he channeled through the study of botany. Cassini occupied an important part of his time working in the French Judiciary system, where he filled almost all the hierarchical positions, including the highest post, president of the Chamber. His work on botany, his work on the Compositae in particular, took place during his leisure time, which makes his achievements even more extraordinary. In order to truly understand the système naturel, Cassini believed that it was necessary to study all the organs of a plant throughout all the species in the family without exception. In what would be the starting point of a series of milestone papers on the systematics for the Compositae, Cassini presented, in April 1812, his “Observations sur le style et le stigmate des Synanthérés” at one of the meetings of the Académie des Sciences. This was the beginning of a prolific output covering an amazing array of characters. Several factors determined that an important component of Cassini’s contributions towards the understanding of the Compositae were published in Cuvier’s Dictionnaire des Sciences Naturelles, which in turn probably was one of the elements responsible for his work not being fully appreciated during his time. Cassini’s detailed descriptions of the styles, anthers, corollas, and achenes of the Compositae led him to classify a complex group, which although recognized in the past, was internally in a state of chaos. His descriptions of organs are still valid and, in most cases, still interpreted in the same way he described and illustrated them almost 200 years ago. He is the true founder of detailed, and rigorous systematic studies of the Compositae.

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1 - Universidad De La República, Laboratorio De Botánica, Facultad De Agronomia, Casilla De Correo 1238, Montevideo, Uruguay
2 - Smithsonian Institution, Systematic Biology, Department Of Botany MRC 166, Po Box 37012, Washington, DC, 20013-7012, USA
3 - der Freien Universität Berlin, Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Zentraleinrichtung, Königin-Luise-Strasse 6-8, Berlin, D-14195, Germany
4 - Universität Göttingen, Albrecht-von-Haller-Institut für Pflanzenwissenschaften, Abteilung Systematische Botanik, Untere Karspüle 2, Göttingen, D-37073, Germany
5 - Smithsonian Institution, Department of Botany, MRC–166, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, DC, 20013, USA
6 - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AE, UK


Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for BSA Sections
Session: 6
Location: Alpine A/Snowbird Center
Date: Monday, July 27th, 2009
Time: 8:15 AM
Number: 6002
Abstract ID:510