George Engelmann

George Engelmann

George Engelmann, also known as Georg Engelmann, (2 February 1809 - 4 February 1884) was a German-American botanist. He was instrumental in describing the flora of the west of North America, then very poorly-known; he was particularly active in the Rocky Mountains and northern Mexico.

He was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the oldest of thirteen children. According to himself, he first became interested in plants around age 15, but studied medicine and received an MD in 1831. He came to the US in the following year, apparently to invest some of his uncle's money, but spent his time on botanical travels, first visiting Thomas Nuttall in Philadelphia. He then went to St. Louis, Missouri, and from there around to the adjacent states. After a couple of years on a farm in Illinois, he returned to St. Louis and established a medical practice. In 1840 he visited Germany, where he married a cousin, Dorothea Horstmann, and they returned to America. (Their son George Julius Engelmann became a noted gynecologist.)

Engelmann devoted himself to his medical practice, but in his later years made further travels, particularly to the southwestern US to study cacti. His two major works on cacti remain important today.

He was a founder and longtime president of the St. Louis Academy of Sciences, and encouraged the wealthy St. Louis businessman Henry Shaw to develop his gardens to be of scientific as well as public use; "Shaw's Gardens" became the Missouri Botanical Garden.

He is commemorated in the names of several plants, including Engelmann Spruce "Picea engelmannii" and Apache Pine "Pinus engelmannii".


* Duane Isely, "One hundred and one botanists" (Iowa State University Press, 1994), pp. 188-190

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