Constantine Samuel Rafinesque
|Constantine Samuel Rafinesque|
Constantine Samuel Rafinesque
|Born||October 22, 1783
|Died||September 18, 1840
|Author abbreviation (botany)||Raf.|
Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz, as he is known in Europe, (October 22, 1783 – September 18, 1840) was a nineteenth-century polymath who made notable contributions to botany, zoology, the study of prehistoric earthworks in North America and Mesoamerican ancient linguistics.
Rafinesque was eccentric, and is often portrayed as an "erratic genius". He was an autodidact who excelled in various fields of knowledge, as a zoologist, botanist, writer and polyglot. He wrote prolifically on such diverse topics as anthropology, biology, geology, and linguistics, but was honored in none during his lifetime. Today, scholars agree that he was far ahead of his time in many of these fields.
Rafinesque was born on October 22, 1783 in Galata, a suburb of Constantinople. His father F. G. Rafinesque was a French merchant from Marseilles; his mother M. Schmaltz was of German descent and born in Constantinople. Rafinesque spent his youth in Marseilles, and was mostly self-educated, he never attended University. By the age of twelve, he had begun collecting plants for a herbarium. By fourteen, he taught himself perfect Greek and Latin because he needed to follow footnotes in the books he was reading in his grandmothers' libraries. His father died in Philadelphia about 1793. In 1802, at the age of nineteen, Rafinesque came to Philadelphia with his younger brother, and traveled through Pennsylvania and Delaware, where he made the acquaintance of most of the young nation's few botanists. In 1805 he returned to Europe with his collection of botanical specimens, and settled in Palermo, Sicily. He became so successful in trade that he could retire by age twenty-five and devote his time entirely to natural history. For a time Rafinesque also worked as secretary to the American consul. During his stay in Sicily he studied plants and fishes, naming many species of each.
Career in the United States 
In 1815, after his son died, Rafinesque left his common-law wife and returned to the United States. When his ship Union foundered near the coast of Connecticut, he lost all his books (50 boxes) and all his specimens (including more than 60,000 shells). Settling in New York, Rafinesque became a founding member of the newly established "Lyceum of Natural History." In 1817 his book Florula Ludoviciana was strongly criticized by fellow botanists, which caused his writings to be ignored. By 1818, he had collected and named more than 250 new species of plants and animals. Slowly he was rebuilding his collection of objects from nature.
In 1819 Rafinesque became professor of botany at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, where he also gave private lessons in French, Italian and Spanish. He started recording all the new species of plants and animals he encountered in travels throughout the state. He was considered an erratic student of higher plants. In the spring of 1826, he left the university after quarreling with its president.
Rafinesque traveled and lectured in various places, and endeavored to establish a magazine and a botanic garden, but without success. He moved to Philadelphia without employment. He published The Atlantic Journal and Friend of Knowledge, a Cyclopædic Journal and Review, of which only eight numbers appeared (1832–1833). He also gave public lectures and continued publishing, mostly at his own expense.
Rafinesque died of stomach and liver cancer in Philadelphia on September 18, 1840. It has been speculated that the cancer may have been induced by Rafinesque's self-medication years before with a mixture containing maidenhair fern. He was buried in a plot in what is now Ronaldson's Cemetery. In March 1924 what were thought to be his remains were brought back to Transylvania University and reinterred in a tomb under a stone inscribed, "Honor to whom honor is overdue."
Rafinesque published 6,700 binomial names of plants, many of which have priority over more familiar names. The quantity of new taxa he produced, both plants and animals, has made Rafinesque memorable or even notorious among biologists. The standard author abbreviation Raf. is used to indicate Rafinesque as the author when citing a botanical name.
Rafinesque applied to join the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but was twice turned down by Thomas Jefferson. After studying the specimens collected by the expedition, he assigned scientific names to the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) and the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus).
Walam Olum 
In 1836 Rafinesque published his first volume of The American Nations. This included Walam Olum, a purported migration and creation narrative of the Lenape ("Delaware Indians"). It told of their migration to the lands around the Delaware River. Rafinesque claimed he had obtained wooden tablets engraved and painted with indigenous pictographs, together with a transcription in the Lenape language, from which he produced an English translation of the tablets' contents. Rafinesque claimed the original tablets and transcription were later lost, leaving his notes and transcribed copy as the only record of evidence.
For over a century after Rafinesque's publication, the Walam Olum was widely accepted by ethnohistorians as authentically Native American in origin. But, as early as 1849, when the document was republished by Ephraim G. Squier, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft wrote to Squier saying that he believed the document might be fraudulent. In the 1950s the Indiana Historical Society published a "re-translation" of the Walam Olum, as "a worthy subject for students of aboriginal culture".
Later linguistic, ethnohistorical, archaeological and textual analyses, particularly from the 1980s and 1990s onward, suggested that the Walam Olum account was largely or entirely a fabrication, and described its record of authentic Lenape traditional migration stories as spurious. After the publication in 1995 of David Oestreicher's thesis, The Anatomy of the Walam Olum: A 19th Century Anthropological Hoax, many scholars concurred with his analysis, and concluded that Rafinesque had been either the perpetrator, or perhaps the victim, of a hoax. Other scholars, writers, and some among the Lenape continue to find the account plausible and support its authenticity.
Study of prehistoric cultures 
Rafinesque made a notable contribution to North American prehistory with his studies of ancient earthworks, especially in the Ohio Valley. He was the first to label these the "Ancient Monuments of America." He listed more than 500 such archaeological sites in Ohio and Kentucky. Rafinesque never excavated; rather, he recorded the sites visited by careful measurements, sketches, and written descriptions. Only a few of his descriptions found publication, but his work was used by others. For instance, he identified 148 sites in Kentucky. All sites in Kentucky which were included by E. G. Squier and Davis in their notable Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (1848), were originally identified by Rafinesque in his manuscripts.
Rafinesque also made contributions to Mesoamerican studies. The latter were based on linguistic data which he extracted from printed sources, mostly those of travelers. He designated as Taino, the ancient language of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Others later also used the term to identify the ethnicity of indigenous Caribbean peoples.
Although mistaken in his presumption that the ancient Maya script was alphabetical in nature, Rafinesque was probably first to insist that studying modern Mayan languages could lead to deciphering the ancient script. In 1832 he was the first to partly decipher ancient Maya. He explained that its bar-and-dot symbols represent fives and ones, respectively.
Thomas Nuttall named a new genus Rafinesquia after Rafinesque in 1841, feeling indebted to Rafinesque after he had given Nuttall's Flora a positive review. It now contains two species, Rafinesquia californica Nutt. (California Plumeseed or California Chicory) and Rafinesquia neomexicana A. Gray (Desert Chicory or Plumeseed).
In 1892 James Hall and J. M. Clarke proposed the genus name Rafinesquina in honor of Rafinesque for a number of fossil brachiopod species then belonging to genus Leptaena; the genus is now in the family Rafinesquinidae.
Notable publications 
- 1810: Indice d'ittiologia siciliana ossia catalogo metodico dei nomi latini, italiani, e siciliani, e siciliani dei pesci, che si rinvengono in Sicilia disposti secondo un metodo naturale eseguito da un appendice che contiene la descrizione di alcuni nuovi pesci siciliani. Ill Opuscolo del signore C.S. Rafinesque Schmaltz. Messina.
- 1810: Caratteri di Alcuni Nuovi Generi e Nuove Specie di Animali e Piante della Sicilia. Palermo.
- 1814: Specchio delle Scienze. Palermo.
- 1814: Précis des Découvertes et Travaux Somiologiques. Palermo.
- 1814: Principes Fondamentaux de Somiologie. Palermo.
- 1815: Analyse de la Nature ou tableau de l'univers et des corps organisés. Palermo, 223 pp.
- 1815–1840: Autikon Botanikon. Philadelphia.
- 1817: Florula ludoviciana; or, A flora of the state of Louisiana. New York: C. Wiley & Co.
- 1819: "Dissertation on Water-Snakes", published in the London Literary Gazette.
- 1820: Ichthyologia Ohiensis. Lexington.
- 1824: Ancient History, or Annals of Kentucky. Frankfort.
- 1825: Neogenyton. Lexington.
- 1828–1830: Medical Flora, a Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America (two volumes). Philadelphia.
- 1830: American manual of the grape vines and the art of making wine. Philadelphia: Printed for the author.
- 1832: American Florist
- 1832–1833: Atlantic Journal and Friend of Knowledge. Philadelphia.
- 1833: Herbarium Rafinesquianum. Philadelphia.
- 1836: A Life of Travels. Philadelphia.
- 1836: The Synoptical Flora Telluriana, With new Natural Classes, Orders and families: containing the 2000 New or revised Genera and Species of Trees, Palms, Shrubs, Vines, Plants, Lilies, Grasses, Ferns, Algas, Fungi, & c. from North and South America, Polynesia, Australia, Asia Europe and Africa, omitted or mistaken by the authors, that were observed or ascertained, described or revised, collected or figured, between 1796 and 1836. Philadelphia: H. Probasco. Pars Prima, Pars Secunda, Pars Tertia & Pars IV Et Ult.
- 1836: The American Nations (two volumes). Philadelphia.
- 1836: A Life of Travels and Researches in North America and South Europe
- 1836: "The World", a poem.
- 1836–1838: New Flora and Botany of North America (four parts). Philadelphia.
- 1837: Safe Banking
- 1837: Notes to Thomas Wright's Original Theory, or New Hypothesis of the Universe.
- 1838: Genius and Spirit of the Hebrew Bible. Philadelphia.
- 1838: Alsographia Americana. Philadelphia.
- 1838: The American Monuments of North and South America. Philadelphia.
- 1838: Sylva Telluriana. Philadelphia.
- 1839: Celestial Wonders and Philosophy of the Visible Heavens.
- 1840: The Good Book (Amenities of Nature). Philadelphia.
- 1840: Pleasure and Duties of Wealth.
- Betts, Edwin M. (1944). "The Correspondence between Constantine Samuel Rafinesque and Thomas Jefferson". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 87 (5): 368–380. JSTOR 985288.
- Boewe, Charles (1980). "Editing Rafinesque holographs: the case of the short letters". Filson Club History Quarterly 54 (1): 37–49. PMID 11616973.
- Flannery 1998
- Long 2005
- Gilbert 1999
- Belyi 1997
- Fitzpatrick 1911, p. 11
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Discovering Lewis & Clark: biography of Rafinesque; accessed : 17 November 2010
- American Heritage : The oddest of characters; accessed 17 November 2010.
- Fitzpatrick 1911, p. 13
- Fitzpatrick 1911, p. 12
- Fitzpatrick 1911, pp. 15–17
- Fitzpatrick 1911, p. 19
- Rafinesque, C. S. (1836). Life of Travels. pp. 46–49. Cited in Fitzpatrick 1911, pp. 21–22.
- Fitzpatrick 1911, pp. 22–24
- Fitzpatrick 1911, pp. 27–28
- Fitzpatrick 1911, p. 34
- Fitzpatrick 1911, p. 38
- Fitzpatrick 1911, p. 42
- Ambrose 2010
- Boewe 1987
- Barefoot 2004, p. 78
- Boewe 2005, p. 1
- Boewe 2005, p. 2
- "Rafinesque, Constantine Samuel (1783–1840)". Author Details. International Plant Names Index. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
- Warren 2004, p. 98
- Jackson & Rose 2009
- Walam Olum: or, Red Score, The Migration Legend of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians. See Voegelin 1954
- Oestreicher 2005
- Warren 2004, p. 91
- Boewe 2000, p. xxiii
- Boewe 2000, p. xxv
- Hulme 1993
- Houston, Stuart & Chinchilla Mazariegos 2001, p. 45
- Chaddha 2008
- Beidleman 2006, p. 139
- Morhardt & Morhardt 2004, p. 71
- Meyer & Davis 2009, p. 272
- Ambrose, Charles T. (2010). "The curious death of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1783–1840): the case for the maidenhair fern". Journal of Medical Biography 18 (3): 165–173. doi:10.1258/jmb.2010.010001.
- Barefoot, Daniel W. (2004). "A Curse on Transylvania. Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky". Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. John F. Blair. pp. 73–78. ISBN 978-0-89587-287-6.
- Beidleman, Richard G. (2006). "The early peripatetic naturalists". California's Frontier Naturalists. University of California Press. pp. 111–160. ISBN 978-0-520-23010-1.
- Belyi, Vilen V. (1997). "Rafinesque's linguistic activity". Anthropological Linguistics 39 (1): 60–73. JSTOR 30028974.
- Boewe, Charles (1987). "Who's buried in Rafinesque's tomb?". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 111 (2): 213–235. JSTOR 20092097.
- Boewe, Charles (2000). "Introduction". In John D. Clifford. John D. Clifford's Indian antiquities. University of Tennessee Press. pp. i–xxxii. ISBN 978-1-57233-099-3.
- Boewe, Charles (2005). "Introduction: reprinting Rafinesque". In Charles Boewe. A C. S. Rafinesque Anthology. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. pp. 1–14. ISBN 978-0-7864-2147-3.
- Chaddha, Rima (April 8, 2008). "Deciphering Maya: a Time Line". NOVA (PBS). Retrieved May 18, 2011.
- Fitzpatrick, T. J. (1911). Rafinesque: a Sketch of his Life, with Bibliography. Des Moines, Iowa: Historical Department of Iowa.
- Flannery, Michael A. (1998). "The Medicine and Medicinal Plants of C. S. Rafinesque". Economic Botany 52 (1): 27–43. JSTOR 4256022.
- Gilbert, Bil (1999). "An "odd fish" who swam against the tide". Smithsonian. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Houston, Stephen D.; Stuart, David; Chinchilla Mazariegos, Oswaldo (2001). The Decipherment of Ancient Maya Writing. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-3204-4.
- Hulme, Peter (1993). "Making sense of the native Caribbean". New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 67 (3&4): 189–220.
- Jackson, Brittany; Rose, Mark (2009). "Walam Olum Hokum". Archaeology.
- Long, Michael (2005). Review: Constantine Samuel Rafinesque: A Voice in the American Wilderness by Leonard Warren. "75 Years of "Middletown"". Indiana Magazine of History 101 (3): 302–304. JSTOR 27792653.
- Meyer, David L.; Davis, Richard Arnold (2009). A Sea Without Fish: Life in the Ordovician Sea of the Cincinnati Region. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-35198-2.
- Morhardt, Sia; Morhardt, Emil (2004). "Asteraceae (Compositae)". California Desert Flowers: an Introduction to Families, Genera, and Species. University of California Press. pp. 29–80. ISBN 978-0-520-24003-2.
- Oestreicher, David M. (2005). "The Tale of a Hoax: Translating the Walam Olum". In Brian Swann. Algonquian Spirit: Contemporary Translations of the Algonquian Literatures of North America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 3–41. ISBN 0-8032-4314-6. OCLC 58721152.
- Voegelin, C. F.; (trans.), with contributions by Eli Lilly, Erminie Voegelin, Joe E. Pierce, Paul Weer, Glenn A. Black, and Georg K. Neumann (1954). Walam Olum; or, Red Score, the Migration Legend of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians. A new translation, interpreted by linguistic, historical, archaeological, ethnological, and physical anthropological studies (Pictographs and Lenape text, after C. Rafinesque ed.). Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society. OCLC 1633009.
- Warren, Leonard (2004). "Kentucky 1819–1826". Constantine Samuel Rafinesque: a Voice in the American Wilderness. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 79–99. ISBN 978-0-8131-2316-5.
Further reading 
- Binney, Wm. G. & George W. Tryon Jr, ed. (1864). The complete writings of Constantine Smaltz Rafinesque [sic] on recent & fossil conchology. A comprehensive work which contains all of Rafinesque's malacological writings, including all his plates.
- Boewe, Charles, ed. (1982). Fitzpatrick's Rafinesque: A Sketch of His Life with Bibliography, revised by Charles Boewe. Weston, MA: M & S Press. ISBN 978-0-87730-011-3.
- Boewe, Charles, ed. (2001). Mantissa: A Supplement to Fitzpatrick's Rafinesque. Providence, RI: M & S Press. ISBN 978-0-87730-016-8.
- Boewe, Charles, ed. (2003). Profiles of Rafinesque. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 978-1-57233-225-6.
- Boewe, Charles (2004). "C. S. Rafinesque and Ohio Valley Archaeology". Ancient America. Monograph Series (Barnardsville, NC: Center for Ancient American Studies) 6.
- Boewe, Charles (2011). The Life of C.S. Rafinesque, A Man of Uncommon Zeal. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society. ISBN 978-1-60618-922-1.
- Call, Richard Ellsworth (1895). The Life and Writings of Rafinesque: Prepared for the Filson Club and read at its Meeting, Monday, April 2, 1894 (Electronic reproduction , Kentuckiana Digital Library). Filson Club Publications, no. 10. Louisville, KY: John P. Morton. OCLC 51849712.
- Dupre, Huntley (1945). Rafinesque in Lexington, 1819–1826. Lexington, KY: Bur Press.
- Holthuis, L. B. (1954). "С. S. Rafinesque as a carcinologist: an annotated compilation of the information on Crustacea contained in the works of that author". Zoologische Verhandelingen 25 (1): 1–43.
- Holthuis, L. B. (1955). "A supplementary note on the carcinological work of C. S. Rafinesque". Zoologische Mededelingen 33 (26): 279–281.
- Merrill, Elmer D. (1949). Index Rafinesquianus. Jamaica Plain, MA: Arnold Arboretum. (Indexes Rafinesque's plant names.)
- Sloan, De Villo (2008). The Crimsoned Hills of Onondaga: Romantic Antiquarians and the Euro-American Invention of Native American Prehistory. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press. ISBN 978-1-60497-503-1. OCLC 183392534.
- Sterling, K. B., ed. (1978). Rafinesque. Autobiography and Lives. New York, NY: Arno Press. (Reprints Rafinesque's autobiography and the books by Call and Fitzpatrick.)
- Stuckey, Ronald L. (1971). "The first public auction of an American herbarium including an account of the fate of the Baldwin, Collins, and Rafinesque herbaria". Taxon 20 (4): 443–459. JSTOR 1218245.
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Constantine Samuel Rafinesque Papers, 1815-1834 and undated from the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, by Clark Kimberling
- Fishes sketched by Rafinesque
- Fishes first described by Rafinesque
- Rafinesque's Big-eared Bat
- Rafinesque in Popular Science Monthly, Volume 29, June 1886.