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Fritz was born at Trautenau, Bohemia. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1673. In 1684 he was sent to Quito as a missionary. For forty-two years Fritz acted in this capacity among the Indians of the Upper Marañon. He succeeded in converting among others the powerful tribe of Omaguas (Omayas) and in concentrating into settlements indigenous peoples from forty different localities, in the country between the River Napo and River Negro.
An adept in technical arts and handicraft, he also was a linguist having a knack for dealings with the Indians. He was effective and respected, and helpful to the Spanish Government in its boundary dispute with the Portuguese.
At the instance of the Real Audiencia of Quito he began (1687) the cartographical delineation of the disputed missionary territory on the Upper Marañon between Peru and Quito. In 1689 he undertook, in a pirogue, an expedition down the Amazon to Pará, where he was captured and imprisoned for two years on the suspicion of being a Spanish spy.
Charting the Amazon
Poorly equipped with instruments, he completed a comparatively accurate chart of the river's course. This was the first approximately correct chart of the Marañon territory. He was also the first to follow the Tunguragua instead of the Gran Pará (Ucayali) and prove it the real source of the Marañon.
Johann Eduard Wappaeus (1813–1879) writes of him in his Handbuch der Geographie und Statistik (Leipzig, 1863–70, I, pt. III, 595) as follows:
- "The great respect justly shown at that time by European scientists for the geographical work of the Jesuits led to the admission into their ranks of Father Fritz by acclamation."
In 1707 this map was printed at Quito and extensively copied, e.g. in the "Lettres Edifiantes" (Paris, 1781), VIII, 284, and the "N. Welt-Bott" (Augsburg, 1726, I), also in Condamine, "Relation abrégée d'un voyage fait dans l'intérieur de l'Amérique Méridionale" (Paris, 1745), which contains the revised chart of Father Fritz for comparative study.
The chart was reprinted in Madrid, in 1892, on the occasion of the fourth centenary of the discovery of America. There was another reprint in the "Recueil de voyages et de documents pour servir a l'histoire de la géographie", ed. by Schéfer and Cordier (Paris, 1893). Three of his letters are incorporated in the "N. Welt-Bott" (Augsburg, 1726), III, nos. 24, 25; according to Condamine an original report of his travels is to be found in the archives of the Jesuit college at Quito.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Samuel Fritz". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. The entry cites:
- Platzweg, Lebensbilder deutscher Jesuiten (Paderborn, 1882), 137;
- Huonder, Deutsche Jesuiten Missionäre im 17. u. 18. Jahrhundert (Freiburg, 1889);
- Borda, Hist. de la C. de J. en la Nueva Granada (Poissy, 1872), I, 72;
- Chantre y Herrera, Hist. de las Misiones de la C. d. J. en el Marañon Español (Madrid, 1901), VI, ix, 296 sq.;
- Wolf, Geogr. y Geologia del Ecuador (Leipzig, 1892), 566;
- Antonio de Ulloa, Viage á la América Merid. (Madrid, 1748), I, vi, c. 5.
- Johann Christoph Adelung, Mithridates oder allgemeine Sprachenkunde, (Berlin, 1806), III, ii, 611. "For the linguistic abilities of Fritz"
- The Journal, Travels, and Labours of Father Samuel Fritz, in the River Amazon, 1686–1723, translated from the Evora MS., edited for the Hakluyt Society by George Edmundson. London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1922