LEONHARD RAUWOLF: Sixteenth-century Physician, Botanist, and Traveler
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LEONHARD RAUWOLF: Sixteenth-century Physician, Botanist, and Traveler

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By Karl H. Dannenfeldt

Leonhard Rauwolf, a Bavarian physician after whom the genus of tropical plants Rauwolfia is named, was the first modern botanist to collect and describe the flora of the Near East. His own account of his travels in the Levant from 1573 to 1575, published in 1582, provides a fascinating illustration of the difficulties and dangers of early scientific field trips. Not for another two hundred years did other botanists identify and more fuily describe the plants of the areas which Rauwolf visited.

Rauwolf's three-year journey took him to Tripoli, Aleppo, Raqqa, Baghdad, and Jerusalem. In addition to his botanical investigations, he observed and recorded his impressions of the people, customs, and sights of these Levantine trading centers. For example, he was the first European to describe the preparation and drinking of coffee, and the first European of modern times to travel the newly opened route from Baghdad to Mosul. Written from the point of view of an early Protestant pilgrim, his depictions of Jerusalem and of religious life in the Near East, both Christian and Moslem, are of particular historical value.

Harvard University Press (1968) First Edition