Constantine Samuel Rafinesque cover

photo credits: Wikimedia Commons

Constantine Samuel Rafinesque

naturalist (1783-1840)

1783   -   1840

country of citizenship: United States of America
languages spoken, written or signed: English
occupation: botanist, pteridologist, bryologist, entomologist, zoologist, biologist, archaeologist, malacologist, carcinologist, mycologist, ichthyologist, explorer, meteorologist
award received: AAAS Fellow

Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz (October 22, 1783 – September 18, 1840) was a French 19th-century polymath born near Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire and self-educated in France. He traveled as a young man in the United States, ultimately settling in Ohio in 1815, where he made notable contributions to botany, zoology, and the study of prehistoric earthworks in North America. He also contributed to the study of ancient Mesoamerican linguistics, in addition to work he had already completed in Europe. Rafinesque was an eccentric and erratic genius. He was an autodidact, who excelled in various fields of knowledge, as a zoologist, botanist, writer and polyglot. He wrote prolifically on such diverse topics as anthropology, biology, geology, and linguistics, but was honored in none of these fields during his lifetime. Indeed, he was an outcast in the American scientific community whose submissions were rejected automatically by leading journals. Among his theories were that ancestors of Native Americans had migrated by the Bering Sea from Asia to North America, and that the Americas were populated by black indigenous peoples at the time of European contact.
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    • Monographie des coquilles bivalves et fluviatiles de la Rivière Ohio, contenant douze genres et soixante-huit espéces ( 1820 )

      scholarly article

      author: Constantine Samuel Rafinesque

    • Prodrome de 70 nouveaux genres d’animaux découverts dans l’intérieur des États-Unis d’Amérique, durant l’année 1818 ( 1819 )

      scientific article

      author: Constantine Samuel Rafinesque

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