René Lesson

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Portrait of Lesson by Tardieu (1827)

René Primevère Lesson (20 March 1794 – 28 April 1849) was a French surgeon, naturalist, ornithologist, and herpetologist.


He was born at Rochefort, and entered the Naval Medical School in Rochefort at the age of sixteen. He served in the French Navy during the Napoleonic Wars; in 1811 he was third surgeon on the frigate Saale, and in 1813 was second surgeon on the Regulus.[1]

In 1816 Lesson changed his classification to pharmacist. He served on Duperrey's round-the-world voyage of La Coquille (1822–25), of which he collected natural history specimens with his fellow surgeon Prosper Garnot and officer Dumont d'Urville.[1] During his visits to the Moluccas and New Guinea, Lesson became the first naturalist to see birds of paradise in the wild.[2]

On returning to Paris, he spent seven years preparing the section on vertebrates for the official account of the expedition: "Voyage autour du monde entrepris par ordre du Gouvernement sur la corvette La Coquille" (published from 1826 to 1839).[3] During this time period, he also produced "Manuel d'Ornithologie" (1828), "Traité d'Ornithologie" (1831), "Centurie Zoologique" (1830–32) and "Illustrations de Zoologie" (1832–35).[4][5] Lesson also published several monographs on hummingbirds and one book on birds of paradise:

In the field of herpetology he described many new species of amphibians[6] and reptiles.[7]

From 1831, he served as a professor of pharmacy, and following a series of promotions, became the top-ranking naval pharmacist at Rochefort (1835).[8] His experience as a ship's surgeon resulted in his two-volume "Manuel d'histoire naturelle medicale, et de pharmacographie" (1833), intended as a handbook for naval surgeons.[citation needed]

He became a corresponding member of the Académie de Médecine in 1828, later becoming a correspondent of the Académie des Sciences (1833).[9] He received the Légion d'honneur in 1847.

René Primevère Lesson is sometimes confused with his brother, Pierre Adolphe Lesson (1805-1888), who participated on the Astrolabe expedition (as the Coquille had been renamed) in 1826-29, under the command of Jules Dumont d'Urville.[9]

Amphibian and reptile species described by Lesson[edit]

listed in the order they were described (only species still recognized are listed)

Amphibian and reptile species described in Lesson’s honour[edit]

listed in the order they were described (only species still recognized are listed)


By Lesson[edit]

About Lesson[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Persée Un pharmacien de la marine et voyageur naturaliste : R.-P Lesson
  2. ^ New Guinea: crossing boundaries and history by Clive Moore
  3. ^ Statement based on a translation of an equivalent article at the French Wikipedia.
  4. ^ Google Search (publications)
  5. ^ WorldCat Search (publications)
  6. ^ Amphibian Species of the World.
  7. ^ The Reptile Database.
  8. ^ Lesson, René-Primevère
  9. ^ a b Lesson, René Primevère (1794-1849) Correspondance familiale
  10. ^ "The Code Online". International Council of Zoological Nomenclature. 

External links[edit]