Charlie Jarvis’ Research

I am based in the Department of Botany at the Natural History Museum in London, where much of my research has focussed on taxonomic botany, and the application of the 9,100 binomial plant names coined by the Swede, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778).  Linnaeus’ use of the information contained in collections other than his own, and in the publications of others, has resulted in my having continuing research interests in, for example, the herbarium of Pier Antonio Micheli (1679-1737) in Florence and the Colombian collections of José Celestino Mutis (1732-1808) in Madrid and the Linnean Society of London.

Apart from using his own extensive collections, Linnaeus also made great use of the illustrated botanical information contained in publications produced by, or featuring the work of, people such as Mark Catesby, James Petiver, Engelbert Kaempfer, Leonard Plukenet and Hans Sloane. The illustrations and descriptions these works contain are often intimately associated with the dried plant specimens on which they were based, many of which are extant in Hans Sloane’s magnificent herbarium at the Natural History Museum. Although the specimens were not directly studied by Linnaeus, they provide an invaluable basis for the illustrations derived from them which often serve as ‘nomenclatural types’ (which fix the application of scientific names).

An interest in the early botanical exploration of the eastern Atlantic Islands has resulted in publications on collections made by Sloane (Madeira), Francis Masson (Madeira and the Azores) and James Cuninghame (Canary Islands). Along with species from these archipelagos first described by Plukenet and Petiver, most of the dried specimens in question (excluding those of Masson) are to be found in the Sloane herbarium.

I am fascinated by Sloane’s botanical collections and the hundreds of collectors who contributed to them, particularly James Cuninghame (ca. 1665-1709). This Scottish surgeon sent several thousand items (plants, shells, insects, materia medica, natural history drawings, maps, letters, cultural items etc.) to Sloane, Petiver and Plukenet (and indirectly to John Ray). Many of these objects originated in China and the East Indies and they are to be found among Sloane’s collections now dispersed primarily between the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and the British Library. A collaborative digitisation and research programme, Reconstructing Sloane, focussed on Sloane’s collections, is being developed by a consortium of these three institutions, and I am closely involved in its development.

Relevant Publications

FRANCISCO-ORTEGA, J., SANTOS-GUERRA, A. & JARVIS, C.E. 1994. Pre-Linnaean references for the Macaronesian flora found in Leonard Plukenet’s works and collections. Bulletin of the Natural History Museum, London (Botany) 24: 1-34.

JARVIS, C.E. 1998. Seventeenth Century collections from the Botanic Garden of Padua in the Herbarium of Sir Hans Sloane. Museologia Scientifica 14(1), Suppl.: 145-154.

JARVIS, C. 2007. Order out of Chaos: Linnaean Plant Names and their Types. London: Linnean Society of London and the Natural History Museum. Pp. 1016.

FRANCISCO-ORTEGA, J., SANTOS-GUERRA, A., CARINE, M. & JARVIS, C. 2008. Plant hunting in Macaronesia by Francis Masson: the plants sent to Linnaeus and Linnaeus filius. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 157(3): 393-428.

JARVIS, C. & SAN PÍO ALADRÉN, P. DE 2010. Mutis plant drawings at the Linnean Society. Pulse, Issue 5: 1.

FRANCISCO-ORTEGA, J., SANTOS-GUERRA, A., JARVIS, C.E., CARINE, M., SEQUEIRA, M. & MAUNDER, M. 2010. Early British collectors and observers of the Macaronesian flora: from Sloane to Darwin. In: Williams, D.M. & Knapp, S. (eds), Beyond Cladistics: The Branching of a Paradigm, a Festschrift for Chris Humphries, pp. 125-144. University of California Press.

SANTOS-GUERRA, A., JARVIS, C.E., CARINE, M.A., MAUNDER, M. & FRANCISCO-ORTEGA, J. 2011. Late 17th century herbarium collections from the Canary Islands: The plants collected by James Cuninghame in La Palma. Taxon 60: 1734-1753.

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