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Joseph Pitton de Tournefort

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort
Born 5 June 1656
Died 28 December 1708
Nationality Frenchspoke
Fields botany
Known for genus
Influenced Charles Plumier
His Research Journeys, 1656 - 1708

Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (5 June 1656—28 December 1708) was a French botanist, notable as the first to make a clear definition of the concept of genus for plants.



Tournefort was born in Aix-en-Provence and studied at the Jesuit convent there. It was intended that he enter the Church, but the death of his father allowed him to follow his interest in botany. After two years collecting, he studied medicine at Montpellier, but was appointed professor of botany at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris in 1683. During this time he travelled through Western Europe, particularly the Pyrenees, where he made extensive collections. Between 1700 and 1702 he travelled through the islands of Greece and visited Constantinople, the borders of the Black Sea, Armenia, and Georgia, collecting plants and undertaking other types of observations. He was accompanied by the German botanist Andreas Gundesheimer (1668-1715) and the artist Claude Aubriet (1651-1743). His description of this journey was published posthumously (Relation d'un voyage du Levant), he himself having been killed by a carriage in Paris; the road on which he died now bears his name (Rue de Tournefort in the 5ème arrondissement).

His principal work was the 1694 Eléments de botanique, ou Méthode pour reconnaître les Plantes (the Latin translation of it Institutiones rei herbariae was published twice in 1700 and 1719). Notable features include its description of fungi, and the designation of lichens as a separate group. Some of the classification of flowering plants was traditional, for instance he grouped them into "trees" and "herbs", but his use of flower characters was innovative. The work's most important contribution, however, was a clear distinction between genus and species. With the concept of the genus, Tournefort was able to cluster the 7,000 plant species he described into 700-plus genera, making classification easier, and preparing the way for Linnaeus. Linnaeus used many of the genus names and descriptions as defined by Tournefort.

The word "herbarium" also seems to have been an invention of Tournefort; previously herbaria had been called by a variety of names, such as Hortus siccus.

The botanist Charles Plumier had been his pupil and accompanied him on his voyages.


  • Élémens de botanique, 1694
  • Histoire des plantes qui naissent aux environs de Paris, 1698
  • Institutiones rei herbariae, editio altera, 1700 and 1719 (Latin translation of Élémens de botanique)
  • Relation d'un voyage du Levant, 1717
  • Traité de la matière médicale, 1717


This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

  • Isely, Duane (1994). One hundred and one botanists. Iowa State University Press. pp. 71–73.  

See also

External links

  • KUL Digital version of Elemens de botanique ou methode pour connoitre les plantes 1694-1695.


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies



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