Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7052
Berlandier, Jean Louis, -1851
Jean Louis Berlandier Papers, 1826-1851, and related papers to 1886
Jean Louis Berlandier (circa 1805-1851), anthropologist, geographer, historian, meteorologist, and naturalist, was one of the earliest scientists to explore northeastern Mexico and southeastern Texas. A native of France, Berlandier studied pharmacy in Geneva, and later studied botany under Auguste-Pyrame de Candolle at the Academy of Geneva. In November 1826, Berlandier was assigned by de Candolle to collect natural history specimens in the northeastern part of Mexico including Texas. After arriving in Mexico, Berlandier was appointed botanist for the Comision de Limites, a scientific boundary survey financed by the Mexican government to survey the Mexican-United States border west of the Sabine River. Berlandier traveled with the Comision de Limites to southeastern Texas from November 1827 until May 1828 when he became ill with malaria. Berlandier then returned to Matamoros to recuperate. From the fall of 1828 until the end of 1829, Berlandier continued his excursions into Texas. After 1830, Berlandier resided permanently at Matamoros as a physician and pharmacist, but maintained his interest in natural history and the physical sciences. Berlandier maintained an extensive record of meteorological observations that began when he left France in 1826. In May 1851, Berlandier drowned while crossing a river south of Matamoros.
This finding aid was digitized with funds generously provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women’s Committee.
These papers are only a segment of Berlandier's papers which were purchased from Berlandier's widow by Lt. Darius Nash Couch in 1853. The Smithsonian Institution received Berlandier's meteorological records, mineral collections, and natural history specimens and manuscripts. The remainder of the papers were sold by Couch.
Between 1855 and 1886, various persons connected with the Smithsonian Institution used these papers, particularly Berlandier's zoological and meteorological data, for research and editing. Their notations, abstracts, and other materials are part of this record unit. Included are C. B. R. Kennerly, who translated portions of Berlandier's zoological manuscripts; James Henry Coffin, who reduced the meteorological observation data that Joseph Henry intended to publish; and Walter L. Nicholson and Cleveland Abbe, both of whom attempted to edit the works of Berlandier and Coffin, but were unable to complete the project.
These papers include Berlandier's correspondence; handwritten manuscripts on comparative anatomy, birds, botany, fishes, invertebrates, mammals, meteorology, reptiles and amphibians; four volumes on zoology; a geographical journal; astronomical, barometrical, cyanometrical, and meteorological data; air temperature, rainfall, and underground temperature data; sketches and watercolor paintings of birds, fishes, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles and amphibians; photographs of some of the watercolor paintings; a handwritten manuscript on Indian mummies; Memorias de la Comision de Limites a los ordenes del General Manuel Mier V Teran, co-authored by Berlandier and General Mier; handwritten manuscripts collected by Berlandier, including a Spanish-Latin dictionary on medicinal plants; and catalogs kept by Berlandier of his manuscripts and scientific collections sent to Europe or kept by him. Also included are Walter L. Nicholson correspondence; drawings of Berlandier's physician and pharmacy office at Matamoros; maps; lists of American medical officials stationed at Fort Brown, Texas, 1846-1851, and 1869; James Henry Coffin's abstracts of Berlandier's meteorological observation data as arranged by Nicholson; printed materials collected by Berlandier and Nicholson; translations of Berlandier's meteorological manuscripts by Cleveland Abbe, Coffin, and Nicholson; translations of portions of Berlandier zoological manuscripts by C. B. R. Kennerly; a catalog of Berlandier's manuscripts printed by the Smithsonian Institution in 1853; and notes concerning the Berlandier manuscripts at the Library of Congress and the United States National Museum Library.
Berlandier's manuscripts were written mostly in French, with some written in Spanish and Latin.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Berlandier, Jean Louis, -1851
- Abbe, Cleveland, 1838-1916
- Nicholson, W. L.
- Coffin, James H. (James Henry), 1806-1873
- Couch, Darius Nash
- Kennerly, Caleb Burwell Rowan, -1861
- Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878
- Mier y Teran, Manuel de
- Candolle, Augustin Pyramus de, 1778-1841
- Library of Congress
- United States National Museum
- Academy of Geneva
- Comision de Limites
- Astronomy and astrophysics
- Natural history
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7052, Jean Louis Berlandier Papers