Bonpland's real surname was Goujaud, and he was born in La Rochelle, a coastal city in France. Around 1790, he left La Rochelle to find his brother Michael, who studied medicine in Paris. The two brothers had the opportunity to take courses in anatomy by Pierre Joseph Desault in the Hôtel-Dieu in Paris. During this period, Aimé Bonpland became friends with another student in anatomy, Marie François Xavier Bichat. From 1791, they also attend courses given at the Botanical Museum of Natural History of Paris where their teachers were the famous Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Antoine Laurent de Jussieu and René Louiche Desfontaines. After serving as a surgeon in the French army, and studying under Jean-Nicolas Corvisart at Paris, he accompanied Alexander von Humboldt during five years of travel in Mexico, Colombia and the districts bordering on the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. In these explorations he collected and classified about 60 000 plants that were, until then, mostly unknown in Europe. He later described his finds in Plantes equinoxiales (Paris, 1808–1816). A semi-fictional account of these travels is to be found in Daniel Kehlmann's Die Vermessung der Welt (also published in English as Measuring the World: A Novel, translated by Carol Brown Janeway).
On returning to Paris, he received a pension and the superintendence of the gardens at Malmaison, and published Monographie des Melastomes (1806), and Description des plantes rares cultivées à Malmaison et à Navarre (1813). In 1816, after having vainly tried to convince Napoleon to emigrate to the Americas, he took various European plants and set out for Buenos Aires, where he was elected professor of natural history, an office which he soon left in order to explore central South America.
In 1821 Bonpland established a colony at Santa Ana, near the River Paraná, in territory then disputed between Paraguay and Argentina, with the specific object of harvesting and selling Yerba Mate (Ilex Paraguariensis). At that time Paraguay had a monopoly in the commercialisation of Yerba Mate. No permission was asked for or granted by the Paraguayan government for the installation of the colony and therefore José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, the dictator of Paraguay, ordered the destruction of the colony. Bonpland was arrested and detained in Santa Maria, not in a cell but in a house provided by the Paraguayan government. He was allowed to keep all his possessions and to practice medicine. During his imprisonment, he devoted his services as a physician gratuitously to the poor. He was also compelled to act as physician to a garrison.
On regaining his liberty in 1831, he resided at San Borga in the province of Corrientes, Argentina. There he married and made a living as a yerba mate (Paraguay tea) farmer and merchant. In 1853, he moved to Santa Ana, in the province of Corrientes, today a small town called "Bonpland" in his honor, close to Restauracion. There he occupied himself in scientific research, and in cultivating the orange trees which he had introduced. He died there, frustrating his intention to once again visit Paris to deliver his collections of plants and descriptions to the museum there.
Bonpland Street in the ritzy Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo Hollywood lies among streets named after Charles Darwin, Robert FitzRoy and Alexander von Humboldt. Many animals and plants are also named in his honor, including the squid Grimalditeuthis bonplandi and the orchid Ornithocephalus bonplandi.
The lunar crater Bonpland is named after him. Also Pico Bonpland in the Venezuelan Andes is named to his honor, although he never visited the Venezuelan Andes. A peak of over 2300m in New Zealand also bears his name. The mountain is near the head of Lake Wakatipu in the South Island.
- 1811: A collection of observations on zoology and comparative anatomy written with Alexander Humboldt, Printing JH Stone, Paris. Version numérique sur le site Gallica
- 1813: Description of rare plants grown at Malmaison and Navarre by Aimé Bonpland. Printing P. The elder Didot, Paris. By Aimé Bonpland dedicated to the Empress Joséphine. Version numérique sur le site botanicus et Version numérique des illustrations sur le site des BIUM.
- 1815: Nova plantarum genera and species written with Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Sigismund Kunth, Volume 1, Lutetiae Parisiorum, Paris.Version numérique sur le site Botanicus.
- 1816: Monograph Melastomacées including all plants of this order including Rhexies, Volume 1, Paris.
- 1817: Nova plantarum genera and species written with Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Sigismund Kunth, Volume 2, Lutetiae Parisiorum, Paris.Version numérique sur le site Botanicus.
- 1818: Nova plantarum genera and species written with Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Sigismund Kunth, Volume 3, Lutetiae Parisiorum, Paris. Version numérique sur le site Botanicus.
- 1820: Nova plantarum genera and species written with Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Sigismund Kunth, Volume 4, Lutetiae Parisiorum, Paris.Version numérique sur le site Botanicus.
- 1821: Nova plantarum genera and species written with Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Sigismund Kunth, Volume 5, Lutetiae Parisiorum, Paris. Version numérique sur le site Botanicus.
- 1823: Nova plantarum genera and species written with Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Sigismund Kunth, Volume 6, Lutetiae Parisiorum, Paris.Version numérique sur le site Botanicus.
- 1823: Monograph Melastomacées including all plants of this order including Rhexies, Volume 2, Paris.
- 1825: Nova plantarum genera and species written with Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Sigismund Kunth, Volume 7, Lutetiae Parisiorum, Paris.Version numérique sur le site Botanicus.
- Baynes, T.S., ed. (1878). "Bonpland, Aimé". Encyclopaedia Britannica 4 (9th ed.).
- Julios Cesar Chavez (1942). El Supremo Dictador
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1891). "Bonpland, Aimé". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- "Bonpland, Aimé". The American Cyclopædia. 1879.
- Obregón. 1999. Los soportes histórico y científico de la pieza Humboldt & Bonpland, taxidermistas de Ibsen Martínez. Latin American Theatre Review.
- "Author Query for 'Bonpl.'". International Plant Names Index.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bonpland, Aimé Jacques Alexandre". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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