The description of Solanum and other Solanaceae collected by Humboldt and Bonpland: a case study of collaboration versus competition in 19th century taxonomy
published: Dec 6, 2007
Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland travelled through the region where the greatest diversity of Solanaceae occurs, and collected many new species and several new genera. The specimens of Solanaceae collected during the voyage were described by several botanists, J.G.C. Lehmann of Hamburg, M.-F. Dunal of Montpellier and many were included in J.J. Roemer and J.A. Schultes' edition of "Systema vegetabilium". Specimens were shared with Dunal, both in Paris and by loan to Montpellier, providing evidence of strong collaborative links in the botanical community at the time. In this paper I explore the evidence of these links and contrast them with the competitive description undertaken by botanists working with Humboldt and Bonpland collections of Solanaceae in the Willdenow herbarium in Berlin. I also assess the impact of Humboldt and Bonpland's collections on knowledge of solanaceous diversity at the time and today.