Second species report by Sir Raffless but to be the first in official report to publish in the world at year 1818.
Who Gets Credit For Discovering A New Species?
Jealousy In The Jungles of Java and Sumatra
Jealousy In The Jungles of Java and Sumatra
Most accounts give credit to Dr. Joseph Arnold, a British physician. Others believe a French surgeon, Louis Auguste Deschamps, was the first western witness to bring its attention to the scientific world. Of course local people were always aware of the plant.
So who gets to be first and who is second in the annals of history? One story claims discovery in 1797, the other in 1818.
Rafflesia Zollingeriana (Rafflesia Patma) bloom at cagar alam pananjung pangandaran(Photo by Febrina Ariyanti), this first species report by Deschamps from east java at year 1797.
Deschamps was the doctor-naturalist aboard a French frigate that was seized by the Dutch in east Java (Indonesia). But because of his keen interest in natural history, the Governor of the Dutch Colony asked him to survey and study the island. So he made collections all over Java and wrote a manuscript with illustrations and notes of all the remote places visited.
The British and French were at war when Deschamps returned to France in 1803. His boat was captured by British soldiers and all of his notes and specimens became British property. Eleven years worth of research sat idle until a buyer donated them to the British Museum in 1861.
The East India Company in Sumatra was run by Sir Stamford Raffles, the governor. Dr. Arnold, as the lead botanist, took Raffles on his first expedition to the interior in 1818. A villager pleaded to show them "a flower, very large, beautiful and wonderful!" Arnold later wrote that "I rejoice to tell you ... what I consider as the greatest prodigy of the vegetable world."
Sadly, Arnold died of malaria before the expedition finished and soon after this discovery of Rafflesia in Sumatra.
Arnold's research findings found their way back to England, where others finished the analyses and published the new genus of Rafflesia, named for Sir Raffles, in a scientific journal in 1821. Thus marking the official discoverer of Rafflesia as Dr. Arnold.
A Scottish surgeon-naturalist, William Jack, took over the role left vacant by Dr. Arnold in Sumatra. Jack tried to rush through a scientific publication in 1820 on another Rafflesia species to beat Arnold to name-claiming fame. But his efforts were thwarted when the Linnean Society held back his paper to allow Arnold's work to be credited first.
Jack died of a tropical disease soon after sending his findings to England, and was not published until 1880.
Until the 1950s, Arnold was acclaimed as the discoverer of Rafflesia. But remember those research papers deposited in the British Museum?
Searching through Deschamps' notes at the museum, researchers saw an illustration of a big flower. They surmised that in 1797, "Deschamps was the first white man to see and examine Rafflesia, twenty years before Arnold found another species in Sumatra."
And remember that letter Arnold wrote before his death? It mentioned that he saw an illustration in the field notes of a Dr. Horsfield, an American working in Java, that resembled the buds of a Rafflesia flower and the host vine.
That illustration is probably the same one found in the British Museum. So Deschamps, whose life's work was seized and sequestered away by the British, surfaced because of a single drawing.
Rivalries exist in science just as much as on the football pitch. Even back in the 1800s.
Dr. Arnold's discovery was genuine, though not the first. Jack tried to take a shortcut and was stopped due to respect for Arnold. And years later, it took others to break through the British-French rivalry and recognize Deschamps in his rightful place among discoverers.
That is how science works, with jealousy, rivalry, respect, skulduggery, serendipity and whatever humans can conjure up.
Rafflesia Species List
|Rafflesia arnoldii||1818||Sumatra, Borneo|
|Rafflesia azlanii||2003||Peninsular Malaysia|
|Rafflesia cantelyi||1881||Peninsular Malaysia|
|Rafflesia kerrii||1984||Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand|
|Rafflesia patma||1797||Sumatra, Java|
|Rafflesia rochussenii||1850||Sumatra, Java|
and the last discover is:
Rafflesia leonardii 2008 Phillippines
Note : See the rafflesia patma discover at year 1797. The first one discover!
- [Note: The above account of the discovery of Rafflesia was adapted from Rafflesia of the World, Sabah Parks (2001)]
- Kew Botany Garden