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Royal Society, and was also appointed Inspector-General for Science of the University of Paris.
With regard to his scientific character, Brongniart has been characterized as the Linnæus of fossil botany; not so much a great discoverer as a great systematizer; introducing lucid order and general principles into the study of the materials which had been already collected. To those materials, also, he undoubtedly added much by his own observations, and probably (as in the case of Linnæus) his example gave a stimulus to the exertions of his opponents as well as of his followers. He was eminent, not only for industry, accuracy, and judgment, but also for the clearness and neatness of his scientific writings.
Brongniart's favourite branch of study is one in which exceedingly rapid progress has been made, since he was at the height of his fame, and in which rapid progress is still making. The researches of Heer, Unger, Ettingshausen, and others, in the fossil plants of the Tertiaries, have opened to us almost entirely new departments of Palæo-botany; the microscopic studies, which have been followed up with so much zeal and success by some in our own country, have thrown a greater amount of new light on the structure of the Palæozoic vegetation. But the name of Adolphe Brongniart deserves to be held in honour as long as the sciences of botany and geology are cultivated ; and, however far the knowledge of these subjects may be carried, such works as his treatise on the structure of Sigillaria must always be valued as models of accurate examination, lucid exposition, and caution in drawing conclusions.
Adolphe Brongniart's careful investigation and illustration of the veining of recent ferns (see his "Histoire des Végétaux Fossiles,” vol. i, p. 148) probably suggested some of the more recent methods of arranging that family of plants.
As a teacher he was remarkable for courtesy and kindness, and readiness to help students in that branch of science to which he had devoted himself.
Elias Magnus FRIES was born at the parsonage of Femsjo, in Småland, in the southern part of Sweden, on the 15th August, 1794. He appears to have inherited from his father a love of natural history, and his parents carefully fostered and encouraged this taste, in hopes of thereby supplying to him the place of companions and playmates. At the age of twelve he was already familiar with many of the plants of the neighbourhood. In one of his rambles, in 1806, his attention was attracted by the large and peculiar Hydnum coralloides, and it was this discovery, he said in after years, which awakened in him a desire to study the Fungi. The very next day he set to work and learnt the few genera then known from Liljeblad's Swedish Flora. In the year 1808, when Sweden was ravaged by war and disease, it became necessary to close the school at Wexio, which Fries attended, and he remained for a time at home. He made use of this period of leisure to describe all the Fungi he could find, and before 1811 he had succeeded in distinguishing three or four hundred species, but not having access to books on the subject, he gave them temporary names.
In 1811 he left the Gymnasium, and went to the University of Lund. At Lund he continued to give all his spare time to Botany, and had the satisfaction of finding many plants new to him. He spent much of his time in the library studying botanical works, in which he found the names of many of the species he had described. While at Lund he was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of two distinguished naturalists, Retzius and Agardh, who put into his hands the mycological works of Persoon and Albertini, the best then existing. During the year 1812 he studied Hypodermia (Ustilagineæ, Æcidomycetes). While earnestly studying for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy he still found some leisure for his favourite pursuit. He took the degree of Ph.D. in 1814, and was also in this year appointed Docens of Botany. In 1819 he became “ Adjunkt” and received the title of Professor in 1834.
From the time of taking his degree Fries devoted himself to the study of the Fungi, and went with this view for a time to Copenhagen. About the year 1814 he brought out his earliest important work, his “Novitiæ Floræ Sueciæ;" and his “Observationes Mycologicæ.” was published, in the years 1815–1818, at Copenhagen. In 1814 he began to write his “Monographia Pyrenomycetum Sueciæ," wbich work he presented in parts from 1816 to 1819 to the Academy of Sciences, in Stockholm. In the
year 1816, having come to the conclusion that the method of describing and classifying hitherto adopted was by no means satisfactory, Fries began to work out a new system and to make fresh investigations of all the Fungi. This new system was based upon a minute examination of their different stages of development, and of the morphological relations of their different parts. The result of this investigation—the “Systema Mycologicum,” in three volumeshe published between the years 1821 and 1829, and a supplement appeared in 1830.
In 1828 Fries published his "Elenchus Fungorum,” in which he described, some of the Fungi, of which great quantities had been sent to him from abroad.
Hitherto Fries had been absolutely prevented by want of means from indulging his ardent wish to explore foreign countries in search of specimens, but in the year 1828 he was at length able to visit the northern part of Germany and the Museum at Berlin, and had the opportunity of extending his knowledge of Lichens, of exotic Fungi, as well as of studying the literature of these plants.
After the publication, in 1829, of the third volume of his “Systema Mycologicum,” he again subjected the Fungi to a close investigation, comparing them with his own descriptions. Having thus revised and completed his observations, separated the Discomycetes from the Hymenomycetes, &c., he published the results of his observations in his “ Flora Scanica " in 1835.
Fries became Demonstrator in Botany at the University of Lund in 1828. In 1834 he was translated to the University of Upsala as Professor of Rural Economy, with which, after the death of Professor Wahlenberg in 1851, the chair of Botany was united. He discharged these teaching duties until 1859, when he retired on a pension.
At Upsala he found new fields for his mycological studies, and published his “Epicrisis Systematis Mycologici sen Synopsis Hymenomycetum ” in 1836-1838.
In the year 1844 the Academy of Science in Stockholm resolved to be at the expense of a series of engravings of all the species of Fungi principally belonging to Hymenomycetes that could not be preserved in a natural state, and gave the superintendence and direction of this work to Fries. This collection, containing now from 1,600 to 1,700 coloured figures, is one of the richest and most extensive in existence. Eleven parts, with 110 plates, have been published under the title
Icones selectæ Hymenomycetum nondum delineatorum.” These admirable figures, to the preparation of which his latter days were devoted, afford great help to the student in one of the most difficult parts of botany.
The last large work of Fries was the "Hymeno mycetes Europæi sive Epicriseos Systematis Mycologici, editio altera,” published in Upsala, in 1874.
Fries had also, at an early age, studied the Lichens no less thoroughly than the Fungi, and he essentially reformed the descriptions and systematic arrangement of these plants. His " Lichenographia Europæa reformata,” published in Lund in 1831, was long regarded as a principal work in lichenographical literature, and the successively published parts of his “ Lichenes exsiccati Sueciæ,” form a remarkably valuable series.
He also published explanations and critical examinations of some of the more difficult genera among the higher plants, for instance Hieracium, Salix, Carex, and several others. He wrote Floras of the whole of Scandinavia, and of separate parts of it, and in his “ Novitiæ Flora Sueciæ," "Botaniska Notiser," &c., he gave descriptions of many new plants discovered by himself.
His Herbarium Normale, collected at great expense, and with incredible industry, contains dried specimens of many of the rarest plants of Scandinavia. It was issued in fifteen numbers, during a period of over twenty years, the last being dated 1857, and is considered to be of the greatest value for the study of the plants of northern Europe. This collection of typical plants is quoted by Fries throughout the first part of his “Summa Vegetabilium Scandinavie."
Fries has also written treatises on Agriculture and on Practical Botany, on the Nomenclature of Plants, and on the History of Botany. In the “Botanical Excursions,” 1852—1864, he has very successfully popularised his science, and the book has been read with lively interest beyond his own country.
Important, however, as were many of Fries' labours on Phænogamic plants and Lichens, his future fame must rest upon his reformation of Fungology. The brilliant discoveries of later observers seem at first sight to eclipse altogether what was done so many years before, but they are quite in a different line, and doubtless have been assisted by the labours of Fries. His arrangement of the genus Agaricus alone has been described as a great effort of genius, and every division of his mycological system is full of matter for reflection. To appreciate his system, full allowance must be made for the state in which he found mycology and the comparative imperfection of microscopes.
Fries was eminent as a systematic botanist, and the Friesian system is still followed by some Swedish writers. The system was first published in the “Flora Scanica,” 1835), and an outline of it will be found in Lindley's “Vegetable Kingdom."
With regard to the relationship of species, his point of view appears to have been the same as that taken by Linnæus, “ A species is each form brought forth by the Creator in the beginning."
Fries had remarkable fluency and power of expression both in writing and lecturing, and this faculty no doubt contributed much to his influence in gathering round him a large number of disciples. Foreign scientific men seldom visited Upsala during the last forty years of his life without making the acquaintance of the celebrated botanist, whose amiable and engaging manners and kind disposition made him beloved by all who knew him.
Fries continued his scientific labours into the last years of his life. In his eightieth year he published a new and improved edition of his extensive work “Hymenomycetes Europæi," and about a week before his death he completed an essay for a foreign periodical. He died on the evening of the 8th of February, 1878, to the last actively useful.
In 1851, Fries had been appointed Director of the Botanical Museum and garden attached to the University of Upsala, and in 1853 became Rector of the University. He was a member of many learned societies, Swedish and foreign. In 1835 he was elected a Foreign Member of the Linnæan Society, and in 1875, a Foreign Member of the Royal Society.