Developer of the First Natural Classification of Plants
Today is the anniversary of the death of the French naturalist and botanist Bernard de Jussieu who died on this day in 1777.
Jussieu was a French botanist who developed the first natural classification of flowering plants.
Today, there's a metro station near the botanical garden in Paris that is named in honor of the Jussieu family - which boasted five members over several generations as notable botanists.
Bernard and his brother Antoine were both botany professors in Paris. Bernard was the stronger botanist, and there's a famous story about his incredible dedication to botany:
One time, after botanizing in Lebanon, Bernard was sailing back to France. Of course, drinkable water onboard a long voyage home would have been a precious commodity. Yet, Bernard Jussieu purportedly shared his precious water with a little Lebanon Cedar seedling he was bringing home. He wanted to plant in the Royal Garden, and he was determined to bring the little tree back alive to Paris. The French say the seedling lived to be over 200 years old and eighty feet high.
As for Bernard Jussieu, in 1759, he was brought to Versailles to develop the Royal Botanical Garden at the Petit Trianon. Unassuming and laid back, Bernard quietly began arranging the plants in the garden in a new way. Jussieu's system of organizing plants into a more natural order was revolutionary at the time and also something he wouldn't disclose to others. However, Bernard did put together a catalog of the plants in his garden.
Bernard recognized a kindred spirit in his nephew, Antoine-Laurent. Bernard trained him for four years, and when he came of age, Bernard confided his methods of plant classification. As a result, Antoine-Laurent's work was an extension of his Uncle Bernard's ideas around grouping plants.
It took Antoine-Laurent Jussieu almost twenty years of refinement and perfecting of his Uncle's work. He finally published his work on natural classification as the Bastille was falling in 1789. In Genera Plantarum, Antoine-Laurent Jussieu kept Linnaeus' binomial nomenclature, but he grouped plants by genera and then into families. He called his system natural and strived to let nature be his guide. Today, many plant families can be attributed to Jussieu.