From a very wealthy family, he and his brother, Ernest Grandidier (1833–1912), undertook a voyage around the world. At first they were led by the astronomer and physicist Pierre Jules César Janssen (1824–1907), but he fell sick and had to return to France at the end of six months.
They visited South America in 1858 and 1859 and in particular the Andes, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. During this voyage they gathered a significant collection of specimens which were analyzed, in 1860, by Ernest.
The two brothers parted ways after this. Ernest Grandidier went to China and collected a vast number of specimens which are now in the Louvre and the Guimet museum. Alfred travelled to India, reaching it in 1863. He had intended to explore the high plateau of Tibet, but was prevented by a severe attack of fever.
Grandidier travelled to Zanzibar to recuperate, remaining some time and making important collections and publishing an account of his findings. He then visited the island of Réunion and in 1865 made his first visit to Madagascar. He became devoted to the study of the island, revisiting in 1866 and 1868. He finally returned permanently to France in 1870. During his explorations he crossed the island three times, travelling 3000 kilometers in the interior and 2500 along the coast. He made observations which resulted in the production of a map of the island used in future expeditions.
After returning to France he began to work on his great work, L'Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar. This work was undertaken in cooperation with others such as Alphonse Milne-Edwards and Leon Vaillant. This work ran to 40 volumes, the final volumes published posthumously by his son Guillaume Grandidier.
Alfred Grandidier's work drew the attention of the French government to Madagascar, which it would annex at the end of 1890.
- 1867 Description de quatre espèces nouvelles de Lepidopteres decouvertes sur la cote sud-oust de Madagascar. Revue et Magasin de Zoologie Pure et Appliquee 19:272–275.
- 1887 Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar,Vol. 18. Imprimerie Nationale, Paris.
- 1887 Histoire physique, naturelle et politique de Madagascar,Vol. 19. Imprimerie Nationale, Paris.
- 1885–1887 Histoire naturelle des lepidopteres. Histoire, Physique Naturelle et Politique de Madagascar 18 :i-v, 1–364; 19 .
- Obituary in The Auk July 1922
- Gallica has several digitised on line digitised works by Grandidier.
- Aluka – Cookies are absent/required at www.aluka.org The Grandidier library and photograph collection.
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