Belsazar de la Motte Hacquet, (also Balthasar or Balthazar Hacquet) (c. 1735 – January 10, 1815) was an Austrian physician of French descent in the Enlightenment Era. He was a war surgeon, a physician in the mining town of Idrija, and a professor of anatomy and surgery in Laibach (now Ljubljana). He researched the geology and botany of Carniola, Istria, and nearby places, and was the first explorer of the Julian Alps. He also did ethnographical work among the South Slavic peoples, particularly among the Slovene-speaking population. He self-identified primarily as a chemist and introduced the methods of chemical analysis to Carniola.
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Hacquet was mysterious about the time and place of his birth and the two have remained uncertain, although sources agree that he was an illegitimate child. Most sources have cited the information from his autobiography that he was born in 1739 or 1740 in Le Conquet, Brittany to an aristocratic father. When he lived in Ljubljana, he told Sigmund Zois that he was born to a Russian grandee, but this has not been supported by any sources. In 1821, the German lexicon Das Gelehrte Teutschland mentioned that he had been born in Metz, Lorraine. A 2003 investigation in the town archives in Metz has given further credence to the claim that Hacquet had been born in this town or its vicinity. The author hypothesised that Balthasar Hacquet was a son of a poor mother and an unknown father, baptised on 11 August 1736 as Jean. However, the question remains unsettled pending further research.
Hacquet studied in Vienna, and was a surgeon during the Seven Years' War. Later he was an instructor of anatomy and natural sciences in Laibach, and in 1788 was a professor at the University of Lemberg (Lviv). After 1810 he lived in Vienna.
Hacquet is remembered for his scientific journeys throughout the Austrian Empire. He was a polymath, and performed research in the fields of geology, mineralogy, botany, chemistry, ethnography, petrology and karstology. He is recognized as the first scientist to perform extensive exploration of the Julian Alps. In 1777 he was the first to try to ascend to the top of Triglav (2864 m), the highest peak in Slovenia, and reached Mali Triglav (2725 m). In 1789 he published a description of the 1786 debris flow at the Salt Mud Slide. He was the first to distinguish the mineral dolomite from the limestone and described it already in 1778, 13 years earlier than Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, as the "stinking stone" (German: Stinkstein, Latin: lapis suillus). He met with Dolomieu in Laibach in 1784.
Among Hacquet's written works is the four-volume Oryctographia Carniolica, which included a geological and mineralogical study of Carniola, Istria, and surrounding districts. In this work, published in Leipzig in 1778 and 1789, he provided an in-depth report of the Idrija mercury mine, where he get employed at 26 years of age and worked for some time with Giovanni Antonio Scopoli. He was also the author of an ethnographical study of Southern Slavic peoples called Slavus Venedus Illyricus. From 1771 to 1780, he was the secretary of the Carniolan Agricultural Society, members of which were also other prominent members of the Enlightenment, such as Sigmund Zois, Blaž Kumerdej, Gabriel Gruber, Peter Pavel Glavar, and Anton Tomaž Linhart.
As a botanist Hacquet wrote a book on alpine flora from Carniola called Plantae alpinae Carniolicae. The botanical genus Hacquetia epipactis is named after him, as well as the plant species Pedicularis hacquetii (Hacquet's lousewort). On one of his excursions, he discovered "on the evening, Trenta side of Triglav, a new species of scabious" and picked it for his herbarium collection, nowadays preserved in the Natural History Museum of Slovenia. He called the species Scabiosa trenta in the published description, and drew it. Many botanists have sought the mysterious pale yellow scabious, among them also the young Julius Kugy. He searched for the secretive flower, and though he was not able to find it, this led him to became a great explorer and describer of the Julian Alps. The Austrian botanist, A. Kerner, later proved Belsazar Hacquet had not found a new species, but a specimen of the already known submediterranean Cephalaria leucantha.
- Slavus-Venedus-Illyricus; Abbildung und Beschreibung der südwest- und östlichen Wenden, Illyrer und Slaven
- Plantae alpinae carniolicae, 1782
- Hacquet's mineralogisch-botanische Lustreise, von dem Berg Terglou in Krain zu dem Berg Glockner in Tyrol, im Jahr 1779 und 81, 1783
- Hacquet's neueste physikalischpolitische Reisen in den Jahren 1788 und 1789 durch die dacischen und sarmatischen oder nördlichen Karpathe. two volumes, 1790-1791
- Reise durch die norischen Alpen physikalischen und andern Inhalts unternommen in den Jahren 1784 bis 1786 ... Nuremberg, 1791
- Physische und technische Beschreibung der Flintensteine... Viena, 1792
- Bemerkungen über die Entstehung der Feuer- oder Flintensteine, etc. Berlin, 1806
- L'Illyrie et la Dalmatie, ou mœurs, usages et costumes de leurs habitants... (translation from German to French for Jean Baptiste Joseph Breton de La Martinière (1777-1852), two volumes, 1815
A memorial relief to Belsazar Hacquet was erected in 1987 in Ljubljana at Upper Square (Slovene: Gornji trg) on the facade of the house No. 4, where he lived from 1766 to 1787. The relief is work of the sculptor Albin Ambrožič.
- Šumrada, Janez (2003). "K vprašanju izvora Balthasarja Hacqueta". Zgodovinski časopis (in Slovene, with a French resume) (Association of Slovenian Historical Societies) 57 (3–4). ISSN 0350-5774.
- Benko, Igor. 2011. Zgodovinski pregled intervencij na plazu Slano blato. Paper presented at the conference Šukljetovi dnevi, Ajdovščina, 30 September 2011. (with photos, map) (Slovene)
- Kranjc, Andrej (2006). "Balthasar Hacquet (1739/40-1815), the Pionneer of Karst Geomorphologists". Acta Carsologica (Institute for the Karst Research, Scientific Research Centre, Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts) 35 (2). ISSN 0583-6050.
- Šumrada, Janez (2001). "Žiga Zois in Déodat de Dolomieu". Kronika: časopis za slovensko krajevno zgodovino [The Chronicle: the Newspaper for the Slovenian History of Places] (in Slovene, with an English abstract) (Association of Slovenian Historical Societies, Section for the History of Places) 49 (1/2): 65–72. ISSN 0023-4923.
- "Author Query for 'Hacq.'". International Plant Names Index.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Belsazar Hacquet.|
- International Conference on the Life and Work of Balthasar Hacquet
- Pictures and texts of Physikalisch-politische Reise aus den Dinarischen durch die Julischen, Carnischen, Rhätischen in die Norischen Alpen by Balthasar Hacquet can be found in the database VIATIMAGES.
- Neueste physikalisch-politische Reisen, In den Jahren 1788 und 1789, Durch die Dacischen und Sarmatischen oder Nördlichen Karpathen, Erster und zweyter Theil (1791) at Austrian Literature Online/University of Innsbruck
- Neueste physikalisch-politische Reisen In der Jahren 1791, 92 und 93 Durch die Dacischen und Sarmatischen oder Nördlichen Karpathen Dritter und vierter Theil (1794) at Austrian Literature Online/University of Innsbruck