Adelbert von Chamisso
Adelbert von Chamisso was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and botanist.


He was born Louis Charles Adélaïde de Chamissot at the château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...

of Boncourt
Boncourt may refer to:*places in France:**Boncourt, Aisne, in the Aisne département**Boncourt, Eure, in the Eure département**Boncourt, Eure-et-Loir, in the Eure-et-Loir département...

 at Ante, in Champagne, France
Champagne, France
Champagne is a historic province in the northeast of France, now best known for the sparkling white wine that bears its name.Formerly ruled by the counts of Champagne, its western edge is about 100 miles east of Paris. The cities of Troyes, Reims, and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area...

, the ancestral seat of his family. His name appears in several forms, one of the most common being Ludolf Karl Adalbert von Chamisso. Driven out by the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

, his parents settled in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, where in 1796 young Chamisso obtained the post of page-in-waiting to the queen, and in 1798 entered a Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n infantry regiment as ensign
Ensign (rank)
Ensign is a junior rank of a commissioned officer in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the infantry or navy. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank itself acquired the name....


Shortly thereafter, upon the Peace of Tilsit, his family was permitted to return to France; he remained in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and continued his military career. He had little education, and while in the Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n military service in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 assiduously studied natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

 for three years. In collaboration with Varnhagen von Ense
Karl August Varnhagen von Ense
Karl August Varnhagen von Ense was a German biographer, diplomat and soldier.-Biography:He was born at Düsseldorf, with siblings including Rosa Maria Varnhagen. He studied medicine in Berlin, but spent more time on philosophy and literature, which he later studied more thoroughly at Halle and...

, he founded (1803) the Berliner Musenalmanach, in which his first verses appeared. The enterprise was a failure, and, interrupted by the war, it came to an end in 1806. It brought him, however, to the notice of many of the literary celebrities of the day and established his reputation as a rising poet.

He had become lieutenant in 1801, and in 1805 accompanied his regiment to Hameln, where he shared in the humiliation of its treasonable capitulation in the following year. Placed on parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

, he went to France, but both his parents were dead; returning to Berlin in the autumn of 1807, he obtained his release from the service early the following year. Homeless and without a profession, disillusioned and despondent, he lived in Berlin until 1810, when, through the services of an old friend of the family, he was offered a professorship at the lycée at Napoléonville in the Vendée
The Vendée is a department in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west central France, on the Atlantic Ocean. The name Vendée is taken from the Vendée river which runs through the south-eastern part of the department.-History:...


He set out to take up the post, but instead joined the circle of Madame de Staël, and followed her in her exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

 to Coppet
Coppet is a municipality in the district of Nyon in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland.-History:Coppet is first mentioned in 1294 as Copetum. In 1347 it was mentioned as Copet.-Geography:...

 in Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, where, devoting himself to botanical research
Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

, he remained nearly two years. In 1812 he returned to Berlin, where he continued his scientific studies. In the summer of the eventful year, 1813, he wrote the prose narrative Peter Schlemihl, the man who sold his shadow
A shadow is an area where direct light from a light source cannot reach due to obstruction by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverse projection of the object blocking the...

. This, the most famous of all his works, has been translated into most Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an languages (English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 by William Howitt
William Howitt
William Howitt , was an English author.He was born at Heanor, Derbyshire. His parents were Quakers, and he was educated at the Friends public school at Ackworth, Yorkshire. His younger brothers were Richard and Godrey whom he helped tutor. In 1814 he published a poem on the Influence of Nature and...

). It was written partly to divert his own thoughts and partly to amuse the children of his friend Julius Eduard Hitzig
Julius Eduard Hitzig
Julius Eduard Hitzig was a German author and civil servant.Born into the wealthy and influential Jewish Itzig family, he was between 1799 and 1806 a Prussian civil servant, became Criminal Counsel at the Berlin Supreme Court in 1815 and its director in 1825...


In 1815, Chamisso was appointed botanist to the Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n ship Rurik
Rurik, or Riurik , was a semilegendary 9th-century Varangian who founded the Rurik dynasty which ruled Kievan Rus and later some of its successor states, most notably the Tsardom of Russia, until 1598....

, fitted out at the expense of Count Nikolay Rumyantsev
Nikolay Rumyantsev
Count Nikolai Petrovich Rumyantsev was Russia's Foreign Minister and Imperial Chancellor in the run-up to Napoleon's invasion of Russia...

, which Otto von Kotzebue
Otto von Kotzebue
Otto von Kotzebue was a Baltic German navigator in Russian service....

 (son of August von Kotzebue) commanded on a scientific voyage round the world. His diary
A diary is a record with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person's experiences, and/or thoughts or feelings, including comment on current events outside the writer's direct experience. Someone...

 of the expedition (Tagebuch, 1821) is a fascinating account of the expedition to the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 and the Bering Sea
Bering Sea
The Bering Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves....

. During this trip Chamisso described a number of new species found in what is now the San Francisco Bay Area. Several of these, including the California poppy
California poppy
The California poppy is a perennial and annual plant, native to the United States, and the official state flower of California.- Description :...

, Eschscholzia californica, were named after his friend Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz
Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz
Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz was a Livonian physician, botanist, zoologist and entomologist.Eschscholtz was born in Dorpat , Governorate of Livonia in the Russian Empire...

, the Rurik's entomologist
Entomology is the scientific study of insects, a branch of arthropodology...

. In return, Eschscholtz named a variety of plants, including the genus Camissonia
Camissonia, sometimes commonly known as sun cup or sundrop, is a genus of annual and perennial plants in the evening primrose family Onagraceae. A total of 12 species are known, nearly all from western North America, especially in the California Floristic Province, but also one from South America...

, after Chamisso. On his return in 1818 he was made custodian of the botanical gardens in Berlin, and was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences, and in 1819 he married his friend Hitzig's foster daughter Antonie Piaste (1800–1837).

In 1827, partly for the purpose of rebutting the charges brought against him by Kotzebue, he published Views and Remarks on a Voyage of Discovery, and Description of a Voyage Round the World. Both works display great accuracy and industry. His last scientific labor was a tract on the Language of Owyhee. Chamisso's travels and scientific researches restrained for a while the full development of his poetical talent, and it was not until his forty-eighth year that he turned back to literature. In 1829, in collaboration with Gustav Schwab
Gustav Schwab
Gustav Benjamin Schwab was a German writer, pastor and publisher.-Life:Gustav Schwab was born in Stuttgart, the son of a professor and was introduced to the humanities early in life...

, and from 1832 in conjunction with Franz von Gaudy
Franz von Gaudy
Franz Bernhard Heinrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Gaudy was a German poet and novelist.His family came from Scotland. He got his education first in the Collège Français in Berlin, then in Schulpforta. In 1818 he entered the Prussian army, but applied for his discharge in 1833 in favor of the life of a...

, he brought out the Deutscher Musenalmanach, in which his later poems were mainly published.

He died in Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 at the age of 57. His grave is preserved in the Protestant Friedhof III der Jerusalems- und Neuen Kirchengemeinde (Cemetery No. III of the congregations of Jerusalem's Church
Jerusalem's Church
Jerusalem's Church is one of the churches of the Evangelical Congregation in the Friedrichstadt , a member of the Protestant umbrella organisation Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia. The present church building is located in Berlin, borough Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, in...

 and New Church
Deutscher Dom
Deutscher Dom is the colloquial naming for the New Church located in Berlin on the Gendarmenmarkt across from Französischer Dom . Its parish comprised the northern part of the then new quarter of Friedrichstadt, which until then belonged to the parish of the congregations of Jerusalem's Church...

) in Berlin-Kreuzberg
Kreuzberg, a part of the combined Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg borough located south of Mitte since 2001, is one of the best-known areas of Berlin...

, south of Hallesches Tor
Hallesches Tor (Berlin U-Bahn)
The underground station Hallesches Tor is part of the Berlin U-Bahn network at the intersection of the east-west bound U1 and the north-south bound U6 in the Kreuzberg district.-Overview:...


Botanical work

Chamisso will be remembered for his work as a botanist; his most important work, done in conjunction with Diederich Franz Leonhard von Schlechtendal
Diederich Franz Leonhard von Schlechtendal
Diederich von Schlechtendal was a German botanist born in Xanten. He was Professor of Botany and Director of the Botanical Gardens at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg from 1833 until his death in 1866, and Editor of the botanical journal Linnaea.His most important work was in...

, was the description of many of the most important tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s of Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 in 1830-1831. Also, his Bemerkungen und Ansichten, published in an incomplete form in von Kotzebue's Entdeckungsreise (Weimar, 1821) and more completely in Chamisso's Gesammelte Werke (1836), and the botanical work, Übersicht der nutzbarsten und schädlichsten Gewächse in Norddeutschland (View of the Most Useful and the Most Noxious Plants of North Germany, with Remarks on Scientific Botany, 1829) are esteemed for their careful treatment of their subjects.

The genus Chamissoa
Chamissoa is a genus of plants in the Amaranthaceae family. This genus is sometimes included in the Chenopodiaceae family. Species include:*Chamissoa altissima Kunth - False chaff flower...

Kunth (Amaranthaceae
The flowering plant family Amaranthaceae, the Amaranth family, contains about 176 genera and 2,400 species.- Description :Most of these species are herbs or subshrubs; very few are trees or climbers. Some species are succulent....

) and many species were named in his honor.
This botanist is denoted by the author abbreviation Cham. when citing
Author citation (botany)
In botanical nomenclature, author citation refers to citing the person who validly published a botanical name, i.e. who first published the name while fulfilling the formal requirements as specified by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature...

 a botanical name
Botanical name
A botanical name is a formal scientific name conforming to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature and, if it concerns a plant cultigen, the additional cultivar and/or Group epithets must conform to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants...


Belles lettres

Chamisso's earliest writings, which include a verse translation of the tragedy Le Compte de Comminge in which "heilsam" is used in place of "heilig", show a 20 year old still struggling to master his new language, and a number of his early poems are in French. Between 1801 and 1804 he became closely associated with other writers and edited their journal.

As a poet Chamisso's reputation stands high. Frauenliebe und -leben
Frauenliebe und -leben
Frauenliebe und -leben is a cycle of poems by Adelbert von Chamisso, written in 1830. They describe the course of a woman's love for her man, from her point of view, from first meeting through marriage to his death, and after. Selections were set to music as a song-cycle by masters of German Lied,...

(1830), a cycle of lyrical poems set to music by Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

, by Carl Loewe, and by Franz Paul Lachner, is particularly famous. Also noteworthy are Schloss Boncourt and Salas y Gomez. He often deals with gloomy or repulsive subjects; and even in his lighter and gayer productions there is an undertone of sadness or of satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

. In the lyrical expression of the domestic emotions he displays a fine felicity, and he knew how to treat with true feeling a tale of love or vengeance. Die Löwenbraut may be taken as a sample of his weird and powerful simplicity; and Vergeltung is remarkable for a pitiless precision of treatment.

The first collected edition of Chamisso's works was edited by Hitzig and published in six volumes in 1836.

See also

  • Adelbert-von-Chamisso-Award
  • Chamisso Island
    Chamisso Island
    Chamisso Island is a small island in Kotzebue Sound, Alaska. It is located off Spafarief Bay at the mouth of Eschscholtz Bay, just south of the Choris Peninsula....

  • Chamisso Wilderness
    Chamisso Wilderness
    Chamisso Wilderness is a wilderness area in the U.S. state of Alaska. It was designated by the United States Congress in 1975.A small subunit of the Chukchi Sea Unit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, Chamisso Island and nearby Puffin Island were combined as a wildlife refuge in...

  • European and American voyages of scientific exploration
    European and American voyages of scientific exploration
    The era of European and American voyages of scientific exploration followed the Age of Discovery and were inspired by a new confidence in science and reason that arose in the Age of Enlightenment...

  • List of plants of Caatinga vegetation of Brazil
  • List of plants of Cerrado vegetation of Brazil

External links

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