Cover image for Profiles of Rafinesque
Profiles of Rafinesque
Boewe, Charles E., 1924-
First edition.
Publication Information:
Knoxville : University of Tennessee Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xli, 411 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction: Evolution of the Rafinesque biography / Charles Boewe -- The man. The life and work of Rafinesque / Francis W. Pennell -- Genealogical note on the Rafinesque family / Georges Reynaud -- The last days of Rafinesque ; Rafinesque portraits / Charles Boewe -- The naturalist. Rafinesque among the field naturalists / Charles Boewe -- Rafinesque on classification / Arthur J. Cain -- The historical background and literary sources of Rafinesque's mammalian taxonomy / Charles Boewe -- Opinions of Rafinesque expressed by his American botanical contemporaries / Ronald L. Stuckey -- Rafinesque : a concrete case / "Henricus Quatre" [Leon Croizat] -- Rebuttal / Elmer D. Merrill -- The fall from grace of that "base wretch" Rafinesque / Charles Boewe -- The philologist. Rafinesque's linguistic activity / Vilen V. Belyi -- Unraveling the Walam Olum / David M. Oestreicher -- Indian languages and the Prix Volney / Charles Boewe -- The beginnings of Maya hieroglyphic study : contributions of Constantine S. Rafinesque and James H. McCulloh, Jr. / George E. Stuart -- The writer. The medicine and medicinal plants of C.S. Rafinesque / Michael A. Flannery -- Rafinesque's sentimental botany : the school of flora / Beverly Seaton -- The fugitive publications of Rafinesque / Charles Boewe -- The legend. The eccentric naturalist / John James Audubon -- Who's buried in Rafinesque's tomb? / Charles Boewe.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QH31.R13 P76 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Was the nineteenth-century naturalist C. S. Rafinesque insane? Did he die in "abject poverty?" Just what is the value of his contributions to scientific nomenclature? Charles Boewe's Profiles of Rafinesque takes up these questions and others.
Among early naturalist, C. S. Rafinesque is second only to John James Audubon in the volume of commentary that has been written about him and his works. In contrast to Audubon, however, he has yet to receive an adequate biography. In this volume, Charles Boewe collects the essays of thirteen writers to provide the most comprehensive portrait now available of a persistently controversial character as well as a glimpse into the world of scientific discovery on the early American frontier.
Rafinesque (1783-1840) is best known for his contributions to scientific classification and nomenclature; he gave Latin names to some 6,700 plants in what his critics described as a "complete monomania" for establishing new genera and species. This passion for discovery may not have kept him from following to logical conclusion his own insights such as that of biological variation, which Darwin so famously explicated just a few years later. Rafinesque's broad interests included the languages of Native Americans and their archaeological remains; these studies contributed to philology and ethnography. He founded a savings bank and marketed a tuberculosis remedy, partially financing his publishing endeavors with his profits. He wrote on subjects ranging from astronomy to zoology, both for professional and for general audiences.
Here are twenty essays, forty-six illustrations, and a summation of 160 years of Rafinesque scholarship, which together reveal a multifaceted individual. Boewe dispels certain myths about Rafinesque's mental state, the circumstances of his birth and death, and the validity of his scientific work--on these topics Boewe and the other contributors provide a well-rounded picture of an intriguing nineteenth-century American naturalist.

Author Notes

The Editor: Now retired, Charles Boewe held academic appointments at several universities both in the United States and abroad, followed by administrative assignments in south Asia with the Fulbright exchange program. His Ph.D. in American studies is from the University of Wisconsin.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Biologist, linguist, philologist, and educator Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz (1783-1840) is little known today to many Americans, yet the merits of his work have been vigorously debated for 175 years. Born in Turkey of French-German parentage, he came to the US in 1802, remained for three years, returned permanently in 1815, and was naturalized in 1832. A widely read, inexhaustibly energetic, prolific, humorless, eccentric, and irascible genius, Rafinesque published many books and papers on plants, animals, astronomy, philology, and other subjects. A pioneering theorist of biological classification, often in advance of his time, Rafinesque also established a savings bank and marketed a tuberculosis remedy. But his penchant for naming new species and genera of plants and animals, and his sometimes maddeningly hasty and slipshod working methods often baffled or infuriated contemporaries. Since 1840, biologists have variously praised and dismissed him. Others have perpetuated Rafinesquian mythology. Historian Boewe, a leading student of Rafinesque for 50 years, clarifies the record, combining chapters by 13 other Rafinesque authorities with eight thoroughly researched and insightful ones of his own. An invaluable and thought-provoking assessment of a remarkable American scientist and intellectual. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. K. B. Sterling formerly, Pace University

Table of Contents

Charles BoeweFrancis W. PennellGeorges ReynaudCharles BoeweCharles BoeweCharles BoeweArthur J. CainCharles BoeweRonald L. Stuckey"Henricus Quatre" [Leon Croizat]Elmer D. MerrillCharles BoeweVilen V. BelyiDavid M. OestreicherCharles BoeweGeorge E. StuartMichael A. FlanneryBeverly SeatonCharles BoeweJohn James AudubonCharles Boewe
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Introduction: Evolution of the Rafinesque Biographyp. xv
I. The Man
I. The Life and Work of Rafinesquep. 3
II. Genealogical Note on the Rafinesque Familyp. 67
III. The Last Days of Rafinesquep. 80
IV. Rafinesque Portraitsp. 99
II. The Naturalist
V. Rafinesque among the Field Naturalistsp. 111
VI. Rafinesque on Classificationp. 125
VII. The Historical Background and Literary Sources of Rafinesque's Mammalian Taxonomyp. 143
VIII. Opinions of Rafinesque Expressed by His American Botanical Contemporariesp. 154
IX. Rafinesque: A Concrete Casep. 179
X. Rebuttalp. 194
XI. The Fall from Grace of that "Base Wretch" Rafinesquep. 203
III. The Philologist
XII. Rafinesque's Linguistic Activityp. 219
XIII. Unraveling the Walam Olump. 233
XIV. Indian Languages and the Prix Volneyp. 241
XV. The Beginning of Maya Hieroglyphic Study: Contributions of Constantine S. Rafinesque and James H. McCulloh, Jr.p. 271
IV. The Writer
XVI. The Medicine and Medicinal Plants of Rafinesquep. 295
XVII. Rafinesque's Sentimental Botany: The School of Florap. 323
XVIII. The Fugitive Publications of Rafinesquep. 340
V. The Legend
XIX. The Eccentric Naturalistp. 367
XX. Who's Buried in Rafinesque's Tomb?p. 373
Contributorsp. 393
Indexp. 395