Georg Joseph Kamel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Georg Joseph Kamel
Born 21 April 1661
Brno, Moravia
Died 2 May 1706
Fields botany

Georg Joseph Kamel (21 April 1661, Brno, Moravia, now Czech Republic – 2 May 1706, Manila, Philippines), also known as Camellus, was a Czech Jesuit missionary and botanist to the Philippines.[1] He is the author of the first descriptions of the Philippine flora and fauna (and especially birds).[2] The well known genus of flowering plants Camellia was named in his honour by Carolus Linnaeus.


Kamel was originally from Moravia, at the time part of the Kingdom of Bohemia within the Habsburg Empire. He became a Jesuit in 1682. He was sent first to the Marianas in 1683, then he transferred to the Philippines in 1688. Kamel established a pharmacy in Manila, the first in the Philippines, where poor people were supplied with remedies for free.

The results of his botanizing, largely of plants already established in the gardens of Chinese at Manila, many of which he sent to London, to the leading British botanist, Rev. John Ray, and the apothecary-botanist James Petiver, was his Herbarium aliarumque stirpium in insula Luzone Philippinarum ("Herbs and Medicinal Plants in the island of Luzon, Philippines"), the first description of Philippine flora ever.

His first shipment of botanical drawings fell into the hands of pirates and was lost. Parts of this work on oriental plants were published as a 96-page appendix in John Ray's third volume of Historia plantarum; species hactenus editas insuper multas noviter inventas & descriptas complectens (1703), and in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Petiver published a third section devoted to climbers.

Among others, Kamel was also the first person to describe the now well known Bean Of St. Ignatius (Strychnos ignatia), used in homeopathy and to extract the poisonous strychnine from its fruit. He named it for Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of Kamel's Jesuit missionary order. The plant is known in the Philippines under the names of aguwason (in Tagalog).

Kamel was also interested in birds and wrote this first account of the birds of the Philippines, „Observationes de Avibus Philippensibus“, published in 1702 in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society[3]

Kamel's Work[edit]

Large part of his work on the Philippines has not been worked on or published yet. Kamel's notes are now deposited mostly in the British Museum in London, then 260 drawings of medicinal plants, animals and minerals of the Philippines can be found in the archive of the Theological Faculty in Leuven, Belgium. Copies of some of his texts and drawings can be found in his birthplace in Brno, the Czech Republic. Among his publications were:

  • „Herbarium aliarumque stirpium in insula Luzone Pilippinarum primaria nascentium Syllabus” or "Overview of plants and shrubs growing on Luzon" published in 1697-1698 became known as the first description of Philippine flora ever. This was Kamel's largest work.[4]
  • „Hortus indicus“
  • „Descriptiones fructicum et arborum Luzonis… “
  • „Observationes de Avibus Philippensibus“ - the first account of the birds of the Philippines, published in 1702 in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society[5]

UNESCO named the 300th anniversary of his death in 2006 among the important anniversaries of the world.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reyes, Raquel A G (Oct 2009). "Botany and zoology in the late seventeenth-century Philippines: the work of Georg Josef Camel SJ (1661–1706)". Arch Nat Hist (England) 36 (2): 262–76. ISSN 0260-9541. PMID 20014508. 
  2. ^ A History of Philippine Botanical Exploration
  3. ^ Transactions, 23 (1702:1394–1399).
  4. ^ A History of Philippine Botanical Exploration
  5. ^ Transactions, 23 (1702:1394–1399).
  6. ^ Brother Georg Josef Kamel, SJ
  7. ^ "Author Query for 'Kamel'". International Plant Names Index. 


  • Donko, Yan: The Philippines in Chinese Paintings – Depicted by an Austro-Chinese Artist: Exhibition Catalogue. National Museum of the Philippines – Manila 2012, published by, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-384422376-7. (with an article on Georg Joseph Kamel pp. 80–86)
  • Donko, Wilhelm: The Lady of the Camellias and the Philippines, "The Philippine Star", February 5, 2012

External links[edit]