ISSN 1188-603X

No. 287 May 6, 2002 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Češka, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2

BEN # 287 and # 288 are dedicated to the memory of the botanist


who was born more than 240 years ago,
on December 5, 1761

Tadeáš Haenke came to the west coast of North America with the Malaspina expedition in 1791. His collection was one of the first larger botanical collections from this area. Often compared to Alexander von Humboldt, Tadeáš Haenke made his mark exploring North and (especially) South America, Philippine and Mariana Islands. Here we would like to show various aspects of Haenke’s life and work.

[Webmaster’s note: I have tired to maintain as many of the Czech characters as I could but, particularly, checks over the ’c’ (in Ceska [Češka]) and ’r’, ’z’ and ’u’ (as in Krizovniku [Křižovníků]) may not be depicted correctly.]

TADEÁ HAENKE (1761 - 1816)

From: Bohumil Slavík [] and Adolf Češka []

Thaddaeus [Tadeáš] Peregrinus Xaverius Haenke was born on December 5,1761 in Chřibská (Kreibitz), northern Bohemia as the seventh child of twelve children. His father was a local judge and his mother (neé Eschler) was the daughter of a butcher in Chřibská. Although Haenke’s family was one of the most prominent families in the town, Haenke’s father wages were barely enough to feed the family. However, he recognized his son’s aptitude for botany and music, and tried to help him develop his talents.

The first teachers of Tadeáš Haenke were the local teacher Zacharias Eiselt and Haenke’s uncle Eschler, vicar in a nearby town. Uncle Eschler, who was an excellent organ player, took Tadeáš to his vicarage and taught him Latin and music and later paid for Haenke’s music lessons with an outstanding music teacher Josef Schubert in Varnsdorf. With his uncle’s help, Tadeáš was admitted to the Jesuit seminary of St. Wenceslaw in Prague, where he got free clothing and free room and board and where he became an excellent bassoon player, singer and a first trumpet player in Church u Křižovníků, where he also taught voice to young choir singers.

A bout of pneumonia and breaking of his voice meant the end of Haenke’s musical career. Tadeáš then turned his full attention to the study of science and soon came close to the circle of scientists who aimed to establish the Royal Czech Scientific Society (Královská cešká spolecnost nauk). He became the resident home tutor of the son of Dr. Joseph Gottfried Mikan, the university professor of botany and chemistry. Under Mikan’s influence Haenke became an excellent botanist and helped Mikan with collecting plants and seeds for the university botanical garden (at that time at the original Praha-Smíchov location).

Tadeáš Haenke received his degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1782. In 1784 "medizinae studiosus Hr. Henke" [sic!] received special attention in Prague newspapers when he constructed from gold foil a small balloon filled with hydrogen ("entzündbare Luft") and gave two demonstrations of this "aerostatische Maschine".

In 1786 he published the results of his first botanical explorations of Rakovník and Beroun districts. His next work, "Blumenkalendar für Böhmen" (1788) presented three years of his phenological observations at various places in Bohemia.

In 1786 Tadeáš Haenke was selected as a botanist to participate in the first multidisciplinary expedition to the Giant Mountains (Krkonoše, Riesengebirge) organized by the Royal Czech Society. The results of that expedition were published in 1788. This was the most important work of Haenke from Bohemia, and he was awarded for it a silver medal by the Royal Czech Scientific Society.

Professor Mikan was irritated by the fact that Haenke and not he was selected for this expedition, and their friendship cooled. In 1786 Haenke left Prague, and went to Vienna to study botany with Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin and medicine with Maximilian Stoll. He made two botanical expeditions to the Alps with Jacquin’s son, from which he described several new species.

Tadeáš Haenke always wanted to travel to distant places and study the botany of new, botanically uncharted areas. He was interested in participating in Capt. Billings expedition sponsored by the Russian Catherine II, but Capt. Billings ultimately did not take any scientists with him. In 1789 Haenke was offered a position of a botanist in the Malaspina expedition and he eagerly accepted the offer. The Austrian Emperor Joseph II learned about Tadeáš Haenke, now one of the best botanists in all of Austria, and he did not want to allow Haenke to leave the country. Only after intervention by Prof. Jacquin, Emperor Joseph II allowed Haenke to leave, but Haenke had to agree that he would return back to Austria after the expedition.

Haenke had to raise money for travel from Vienna to Cádiz in Spain. This and the problems with the Emperor’s permission caused a delay in Haenke’s departure. On July 31, 1789 he reached Cádiz, but only a few hours after Malaspina’s corvettes, Descubierta and Atrevida had left the port for South America. Haenke boarded another ship heading for Montevideo in Argentina and on August 19, 1789 he departed to catch Malaspina’s expedition in South America.

The ship reached Montevideo on November 23, but when it was approaching the shore, it capsized at the mouth of La Plata River. Haenke swam ashore and lost all his possessions and scientific instruments. He saved only his letter of credentials from the Spanish king Carlos IV and a copy of Linné’s Genera Plantarum.

Unfortunately, Malaspina’s expedition had already left for Malvinas (Falkland Islands) on November 15. Haenke succumbed to the strain of his voyage and adventures and fell ill for about three weeks, which he spent in Montevideo. When he moved to Buenos Aires, the Spanish Viceroy gave him some money to cover the lost of his possessions, and on February 24, 1790 Tadeáš Haenke left Buenos Aires and went westward to meet Malaspina on the west coast of South America. After crossing the continent, he reached Santiago, Chile, on April 2, met Malaspina’s people and joined the expedition.

Haenke was with the Malaspina’s expedition till August 1792, visited various places along the coast of South America and Mexico, made trips inland, such as from Quayaqiul to Quito (in modern Ecuador). From Mexico he went to Mulgrave (Alaska), Nootka and Monterey Peninsula, and back to Acapulco. Then he went to the western Pacific, stopping at Guam, en route to the Philippines where he spent some time on the island of Luzon. In the expedition, he shared botanical duties with Luis Neé. After the death of the zoologist and geographer of the expedition, Antonio Pineda, he took over some of his duties.

After Haenke left the expedition he went as far as Cochabamba (in what is today Bolivia) and made exploration trips to the Amazon Basin, where in 1801 at the River Mamoré he discovered Victoria regia. In Cochabamba Haenke started a botanical garden, cultivated silk worms, and continued in his explorations of South America.

In 1809 the movement for independence started in South America. Some authors suggested that Haenke sympathized with this revolutionary movement (Hoffmannová 1973, 1974; Ibañez Montoya 1994). He was ordered to leave South America for Europe, but his departure had to be postponed because of injuries he suffered when he fell off a horse.

Haenke’s death remains a mystery. One now disputed version was that he was poisoned in prison, another, that he was accidentally given poison instead of medication by his maid. Markstein (1994) gives the 4th of November 1816 as the date of his death (other sources list October 24, 1817).

Important literature dealing with the life and work of Tadeáš Haenke:

Gicklhorn, R. [Reneé] 1966.
Thaddäus Haenkes Reisen und Arbeiten in Südamerika Nach Dokumentarforschungen in spänischen Archiven. Acta Humboldtiana. Series historica Nr. 1. F. Steiner, Wiesenbaden. 231 p.
Haubelt, J. 1967.
Bibliographia Haenkeana. – Zprávy Čs. Společ. Děj. Věd Techn., Praha 1967 no. 8: 49-69. [273 references: a) Haenke’s publications; b) literature about Haenke; c) literature related to Haenke’s activities.]
Hoffmannová, Eva. 1973.
Josef Svatopluk Presl Karel Borivoj Presl. Melantrich, Praha. 299 p.
Hoffmannová, Eva. 1974.
Vezeň z Cochabamby. Albatros, Praha. 223 p.
Ibañez Montoya. M.V. 1994.
La Expedición Malaspina 1789-1794 Tomo IV: Trabajos cientificos y correspondencia de Tadeo Haenke.Lunwerg Editores, S.A., Barcelona, Madrid. 330 p.
Khol, F. 1911.
Tadeáš Haenke, jeho život, dílo a listy ze zámořských krajin. Česká Akademie Císaře Františka Josefa pro Vědy, Slovesnost a Umění. Praha. 92 p.
Kühnel, J. 1939.
Thaddaeus Haenke: Leben und Leistung eines sudetendeutschen Naturforschers. Haida, Novy Bor. 188 p.
Markstein, Heinz. 1991.
Der sanfte Konquistador: der Geschichte des Thaddäus Haenke Verlag Freies Geistesleben,
Markstein, Heinz. 1994.
Tadeo Haenke: El conquistador naturalista. "Los Amigos del Libro", Cochabamba – La Paz. 348 p. [Spanish translation of Markstein 1991.]
Villanueva, Pabellón. (ed.) 1989.
La botánica en la Expedición Malaspina 1789-1794.Colección Encuentros, Turner. 218 p.


From: Robin Inglis []

The 18th century witnessed the second great period of European expansion, but unlike its predecessor in the years before and after 1500, a new element was added to the interplay of imperial rivalries. An important aspect of Enlightenment thinking suggested that it wasn’t good enough to claim overseas lands with a flag or a cross: true dominion required scientific possession. Modern explorers such as James Cook, became intimately involved with cartographic, ethnographic and scientific endeavors. And, in land empires, such as in Central and South America, Spain launched an expensive and far-reaching series of scientific expeditions.

When, therefore, in 1788 the well-connected Spanish naval officers Alejandro Malaspina and José Bustamante proposed their voyage to the Americas, the Pacific and around the world, it was assumed that, in the tradition established by Cook, Bougainville and La Pèrouse, the map-making and scientific aspects of the expedition would be important. Indeed to Malaspina the ’public’ scientific goals were as important as the ’private’ political ones. New charts of the American coasts were to be a principal undertaking, as was the artistic recording of people and places and the amassing of artifact and natural history collections. Emissaries were active in London and Paris to secure books for the scientific library and to buy the very latest in instruments to calculate longitude and to measure such things as gravity and the purity of the air. Malaspina corresponded with Sir Joseph Banks and his carefully chosen scientific corps included two botanists, one of whom was the 28 year-old Bohemian-born scientist Tadeo Haenke. If this would seem surprising, one should remember that the European scientific community was in fact quite small and, transcending national boundaries, communicated effectively. Haenke had studied in Vienna under the famous Dutch botanist Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin, had already published several works and received his doctorate from the University of Prague, spoke several languages and came highly recommended by the Ambassador to Madrid from Sardinia. So, permission was sought and obtained from the Austrian government for this brilliant, multi-talented young scholar to join Spains great enlightened voyage.

The expedition, consisting of two identical, purpose-built corvettes, Descubierta and Atrevida, left Cádiz in July 1789. It visited Argentina, rounded Cape Horn to Chile and reached New Spain (Mexico) early in 1791. The young Haenke unfortunately missed the ships’ departure from Spain by a few hours, and then missed them again when he got to Montevideo. Undeterred, he hired some native guides and set out across the continent, finally joining up with Malaspina in Santiago, Chile in April, 1790. He arrived on the Pacific coast having made copious notes about the topography and natural history along his route, as well as having collected over 2500 botanical specimens!

A visit to California and the Northwest Coast of America was not part of Malaspina’s original plan for the voyage. From Acapulco he expected to go to Hawaii and the Philippines before heading south to Australia, New Zealand and the islands of the south Pacific. The California coast was already well known, and to explore and uphold Spanish sovereignty, ships from San Blas (north of present-day Puerto Vallarta) had been sailing to what is today British Columbia and Alaska since the 1770’s. Malaspina considered that the coast had been well covered and that it didn’t merit his further attention. However two things were to change the itinerary: first what purported to be new evidence of the existence of the legendary passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic had come to light in Europe, and second the Nootka Crisis (confrontation between Spain and England) of the summer of 1789. The royal order therefore went out for Malaspina to undertake a northern campaign in the summer of 1791 to look for the supposed Strait of Ferrer Maldonado and to report on the situation and viability of the two year-old establishment in Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The ships voyaged up the coast before making landfall at the end of June in Port Mulgrave in the southwest corner of Yakutat Bay at 60 North. Here, the armchair geographers in Europe believed, was the opening to the passage. Malaspina was always skeptical, however, as it seemed impossible that there could be a route through the snowcapped cordillera that lay before them. The expedition stayed for a couple of weeks trading with the native Tlingit and visiting the surrounding area. The artists José Cardero and Tomás de Suría drew many sketches, and reports were compiled on all aspects of native life. Haenke busied himself immediately describing the marine life, pelagic birds, barnacles, and molluscs.

Haenkes facility as a musician allowed him to record a melody sung by three young native women, and the Canto de la Paz is a folkloric jewel in the collection of the Museo Naval in Madrid (Ms. 425 fol. 158-159 vto.). He also created a small dictionary of the Tlingit language. In a letter to a friend in Vienna, Haenke described the natives and his pleasure in meeting them. Malaspina decided to explore the bay and so he led a small boat party to the head of the inlet where the Spaniards came face to face with what is today the Hubbard Glacier. We do not know if Haenke was in the group, but he likely was, as the commander named a small island in his honor and there is a painting of the scene that includes a figure with a wide-brimmed hat, apparently one of his trademarks. The painting was done later from a sketch that hasn’t survived, but it is a clue. Then, the island was surrounded by ice, but today Haenke Island in Disenchantment Bay is now in open water.

After sailing further up the coast and failing to enter Prince William Sound because of the adverse winds, Malaspina wrote to the navy minister, Antonio Valdés that his reconnaissance and those of other explorers and traders had convinced him that no navigable passage existed in these latitudes. It was time to sail south to Nootka. The ships arrived there for a two-week stay in the middle of August after surviving a major storm off the Queen Charlotte Islands. At the military establishment in Friendly Cove, among their compatriots, Malaspina’s men rested from the rigors of their voyage, enjoying fresh milk, vegetables from the gardens, local berries and long walks on the beach. But the work of the expedition also continued. The channels of the sound were charted, astronomical observations were recorded, and the commander worked hard to cement the friendship of the local Chief Maquinna with the Spanish settlement. Again Cardero and Suría drew sketches of people and places that have become a precious legacy of the contact period, and Haenke busied himself collecting plants and writing notes on everything he could see in the natural history world: he observed crows, herons, woodpeckers and hawks; fish such as perch, sole, bass, sardines and salmon; mussels and rich crustaceans and various colors of starfish. He noted butterflies and beetles and commented on the different trees. His catalogue of plants he considered sufficient to prove that most of them were unknown in Europe, but not on the eastern seaboard of America. Helped by translators from the establishment a number of officers interviewed the local natives about their customs and wrote up reports on much of what they heard and saw, from attitudes about religion to the way homes were constructed. As in Mulgrave, Haenke recorded songs of the local natives in Canto de la alegría en Nutka (Ms. 567 fol. 390 vto., & Ms. 289 fol. 72 vto. in Museo Naval). Malaspina himself wrote a report on cannibalism, which was widely suspected by the Spaniards stationed at Nootka and fur traders who visited the sound. But he was not convinced and wrote that the evidence didn’t support such a conclusion. He also agonized about the practice of sending native children to the California settlements, but reluctantly agreed to let some aboard the ships.

The next stopover was made at the ’capital’ of the California, Monterey. This was known territory for Spain, but additions to the botanical collections continued. With other members of the expedition Haenke visited the nearby mission of San Carlos at Carmel where the Franciscans persuaded their native charges to help with the gathering of specimens. He also continued to build up his personal collection of artifacts, and in the Náprstek Museum in Prague are a priceless Chumash bowl and food tray. Haenke probably was able to get these items, sent from south of Monterey to be added to the expedition’s official collection for the royal bureau, because they were duplicates.

Malaspina’s Northwest Coast campaign ended in Acapulco in early October. Spain’s great exploring expedition then continued its work on the other side of the Pacific (island Guam of the Mariana Islands, and the Philippines) and in the south. After his visit to the settlement in Botany Bay for a little amicable spying, because the Spanish were convinced that a British base in the south Pacific threatened their colonies in South America, Malaspina changed his mind about returning home via the Indian Ocean and the Cape of Good Hope. The ships visited New Zealand and Tonga before crossing the Pacific again to Callao, the port of Lima.

For Tadeo Haenke this was a defining moment in his life, for here he parted company from his friends and the ships and never again returned to Europe. He continued his scientific work in the Andes, being paid for a number of years, surprisingly enough, as a member of the Malaspina expedition! His friendship with the Governor of Cochabamba led him to establish his base of operations in what would become Bolivia and there he worked, producing a prodigious number of reports and studies, until his death in 1816.

His commander, Alejandro Malaspina, didn’t fare so well. Returning to Spain as a hero in 1794, Malaspina soon found that his enlightened thinking and liberal recommendations about colonial government were out of touch with the post French Revolution court of Carlos IV and his favorite Manuel Godoy. Malaspina’s extreme and less that prudent criticism of the government landed him in jail and then exile. Work on a great publication reflecting the hundreds of charts, reports, drawings and collections of artifacts and natural history specimens was suspended. An account of the voyage did not appear until 1885, and it wasn’t until the recent bicentennial years with its numerous books and articles and exhibitions that the remarkable achievements of the Malaspina expedition have been truly appreciated for the first time.

As well as a private collection of artifacts, Haenke also developed a personal herbarium separate from the official collections that returned to Spain with his reports and drawings. These ultimately made their way to Europe through the good offices of the Bohemian glass trading firm of Hiecke, Rautenstauch und Zinke which operated in both Spain and the Americas. They were later acquired for the National Museum in Prague.

Further reading:

Cutter, D. C. 1991.
Malaspina and Galiano: Spanish voyages to the Northwest Coast. Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver.
Engstrand, I. 1981.
Spanish Scientists in the New World. University of Washington, Seattle.
Kendrick, J. 1985.
The men with wooden feet. NC Press, Toronto.
Kendrick, J. 1999.
Alejandro Malaspina: portrait of a visionary. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal & Kingston.
Kendrick, J. & R. Inglis. 1991.
Enlightened voyages: Malaspina and Galiano on the Northwest Coast 1791-1792. Vancouver Maritime Museum, Vancouver, BC.
Sotos Serrano, Carmen. 1982.
Los pintores de la expediciόn de Alejandro Malaspina. Vol. I + II. Real Academia de la Historia, Madrid.

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