Marggraf, Georg (1610-1644). Historiae rerum
naturalium Brasiliae, libri octo ... cum appendice de Tapuyis. Lisbon and
The Historia naturalis Brasiliae, as it is also called, is the first scientific
study of the natural history of Brazil, and it remained the most important
reference book on this subject until the nineteenth century. Marggraf's
careful descriptions and drawings of plants, fish, birds, quadrupeds, reptiles,
and insects, form the second part of the work. The first part, on materia
medica, diseases, and drugs, was written by Willem Piso, personal physician
of Maurits of Nassau-Siegen and the head of the scientific expedition sponsored
by the Dutch West India Company. During his stay in Brazil he made studies
parallel to Marggraf's, and the work of these two naturalists is so intertwined
that it is difficult to separate them.
The book also contains a chapter about the "Tapuya," the non-assimilated
native tribes allied to the Dutch, based on writings by a famous Jewish-German
interpreter of indigenous languages in Dutch service, Jacob Rab.
Marggraf was born in Liebstadt, Germany, in 1610 and died in Africa in
1644, merely 34 years old. He traveled to Brazil in 1638 under the protection
of Prince Maurits. Aside from natural history, Marggraf also did astronomical
research, which was carried out in an observatory built by Maurits. His
astronomical observations, including the viewing of a solar eclipse in
1640, were the first made in America.