The University of North Carolina Herbarium
has catalogued to date about 30 vascular plant specimens collected by
Augustin Gattinger. As NCU's
collection continues to be databased, it is possible that more specimens will
Augustin Gattinger, ca. 1870
by George Dury
Portrait is in
the Tennessee State Library & Archives
Augustin Gattinger was born on February
3, 1825 in Munich, Germany and died July 18, 1903 in Nashville, Tennessee. He
was a botanist and medical doctor who, in 1901, published the first extensive
catalog of the botany of his adopted state entitled Flora of Tennessee and
Philosophy of Botany. This
book remains his greatest contribution to the study of botany in the South.
He arrived in the United States in 1849 after being
dismissed from the University of Munich for participation in dissident
student groups and the celebration of George Washington’s birthday. After
spending some 15 years practicing medicine in Chattanooga and East Tennessee,
his pro-Union sympathies forced him to flee to Nashville in 1864. He served
as an assistant surgeon in the United States Army and was subsequently
appointed State Librarian from 1864-1869.
During his years in East and Middle Tennessee, Dr. Gattinger pursued the study of botany, using the
travelling he did as a country doctor as an opportunity to amass an extensive
collection of plant specimens. He began corresponding with prominent
botanists from all over the country and was able to meet many of them when
they convened at a meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Science
in Nashville in 1877. At this gathering he was encouraged to compile his
extensive knowledge of the then unexplored botany of Tennessee into a
catalog. This small volume, The Flora of Tennessee, with Special Reference to the Flora of
Nashville, was self-published in 1887 and paved the way for Dr. Gattinger’s subsequent work, Medicinal Plants of
was published in 1894 under the auspices of the State of Tennessee Department
of Agriculture. Flora of Tennessee and Philosophy of
Botany, his major work, was published in 1901. In 1890 he donated
his extensive herbarium to the University of Tennessee where it remained
until the building housing it burned to the ground in 1934 and all specimens
papers are preserved in the Jean
and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University, in Nashville,
Gattinger married Josephine Dury
(sister of portrait artist George Dury) and
together they had three daughters, Augusta (b. 1863), Minnie (b. 1865) and
Pennie (b. 1867).
In 2003 the state of Tennessee protected Gattinger’s Cedar Glade and Barrens, a 57-acres
natural area in Wilson and Rutherford Counties. According to the Tennessee Dept. of
Environment & Conservation, the preserve “supports one of the largest and
best-known populations of the federally endangered Tennessee purple coneflower
(Echinacea tennesseensis). This pristine glade and barrens complex
also supports other state rare species that include cleft phlox (Phlox bifida ssp. stellaria) ,
evolvulus (Evolvulus pilosus) and Gattinger’s lobelia
var. gattingeri). Gattinger
described many cedar glades and barrens in the late 1800’s that are presently
protected as state natural areas. He
also was the first to describe Tennessee coneflower and provided location
information for its occurrence.”
following is an excerpt from the PREFACE of:
Gattinger, Augustin (1901
) The flora of Tennessee and a philosophy of botany, respectfully
dedicated to the citizens of Tennessee.
Gospel Advocate Publishing Company:
The fifth decade of the past century proved disastrous to the patriots
of Germany who were seeking liberty and progress, and no hope was left for
recovery from the defeat sustained or for better success in the near future
by a renewal of the struggle for liberal government. For the first time in the history of the
Bavarian capital of Munich, a meeting of discontented citizens was held, to
deliberate upon joint action to secure better and safer means of emigration
to the United States of North America.
Artists, professional men, mechanics, and farmers, people of good
standing in society and amply provided financially, to the number of nearly
two hundred, composed the meeting.
At this time an association
of students of the University of Munich, of which I was a member, resolved to
celebrate in a solemn fete Washington’s birthday, a proceeding never before
heard of, but fully in accord with the sentiments of this part, which in
these turbulent times represented the liberal movement in the
university. The celebration was a
great success, and speeches and eulogies on Washington and Jefferson,
Franklin and other heroes were indulged in fervently and unreservedly.
The open avowal of republican
institutions was immediately denounced as a provocation, too flagrant to be
allowed to be passed by, and actions were instituted by the authorities. Several of the participants had to leave
the city. Called before the university
tribunal, I was released on my pledge to emigrate. I regret today that I have never since
found an opportunity to celebrate this national festivity with the same
pathos and enthusiasm as on this memorable twenty-second of February,
from beloved friends and the ancestral soil is a bitter and mournful task,
and recollection of it even now clouds the serenity of the moment. But the genius of love mitigated my
distress, for the one whom I had chosen for my companion [Josephine Dury, b. 1823] through the turmoils
of life consented to go with me, and we joined hands at the American
consulate at Havre before sailing.
These circumstances account
for my appearance in Chattanooga, Tenn., in June, 1949, which place I reached
by stage from Dalton, Ga., the terminus of the Georgia and South Carolina
Railroad. I was fascinated by the
magnificence of the scenery; but there were but few dwellings, and these of
poor construction, as might be expected in a recently-settled place. After a short delay, a small side wheel
steamer blew its whistle and brought me and my party after three days’ navigation
up to Kingston, on the Clinch River.
This little town looked clean and airy, and, pleased with the
friendliness of the citizens, we made it the base of
operations for exploring the vicinity.
Weary of traveling and wishing to enter on the practice of my
profession [medicine], I was easily fascinated by a romantic spot called
“Cave Spring,” eight miles to the west of Kingston, at the time occupied by
an older physician who intended to go West.
I purchased the place in partnership with my brother-in-law, the late
George Dury, a Munich artist, whose exquisite
paintings now adorn the State Library in the Capitol. Unfortunately, we did not take into
consideration, in making this purchase, the possible – or, rather, impossible
– revenues to be derived from this possession, a circumstance which
ultimately necessitated the abandonment of our farming experiment at a great
The transfer from a buoyant
German city to this silent retreat was to me a stimulus to concentrate my
attention outside professional duties and equestrian hardships to the study
of the botany and geology of the country.
At my alma mater, the
University of Munich, it was obligatory to pass through a course of natural
sciences – chemistry, mineralogy, and botany – before being admitted to the
medical department. A two-years’ course in general and medicinal botany
initiated me into the science.
Moreover, I had from earlier school years been a botanical collector,
and had given a great deal of time to these studies.
After the abandonment of Cave Spring I
acquired some property in Charleston, Bradley County, where I remained until
I accepted, in 1858, the charge of resident surgeon at the copper mines of Ducktown, situated in the high mountains of East
Tennessee, adjoining North Carolina and Georgia. The new situation was socially very
agreeable, moderately remunerative, and possessed botanically and
geologically so many and so diversified points of it: that a whole lifetime of a competent
investigator could not exhaust and unravel all the problems and collect the
various plants, minerals and rocks.
… Having been fifteen years
in the saddle, traversing more than one-half of East Tennessee, throughout
the Cumberland Mountains and all the valleys between Walden’s Ridge and Smoky
Mountain, I held in my mind a well-connected panorama of the natural vista at
all seasons of the year.
Possessed, as I believed
myself to be, of moderate and quiet enjoyment of intelligent and useful
pursuits, it came suddenly to pass that I had to bear my share of the agonies
and convulsion of the Civil War.
Opposed to the disruption of
the Union, knowing from experience the misery of a great nation split into
petty principalities (as was the case with Germany for centuries), seeing in
the growing greatness of this government the future liberation of all
nationalities through its physical power and moral influence, I advocated the
cause of the Union, and created such displeasure with my former friends that
I found it advisable to leave my domicile and part with my family. On a cold, starry March night, afoot, no
money, with a small satchel as traveling outfit, I wound my way through the
Ocoee gorge and reached the town of Cleveland, forty miles distant, without
The government in which I had
put my faith and trust [took] me under its care, sent me to Nashville, and
put me into service as an assistant surgeon.
After the expiration of my term and recovery from a severe malarial
fever, which temporarily disabled me for army duties, I accepted from the
military governor, Andrew Johnson, the position of State Librarian, which I
held for five years, whereby I greatly improved my acquaintance with
scientific American literature. …
It is much to be regretted
that Dr. Rugel, who, about fifty years ago, resided
in the vicinity of Greeneville and made valuable collections and discoveries
in that vicinity and the mountains of East Tennessee and North Carolina, died
without leaving a record of his work.
His collections came in the possession of Mr. Shuttleworth,
of England. Senecio rugelia Gray, Plantago rugellii Decaisne,
Siphonychia rugelii Chapm. commemorate his name.
My collections were in much
request for exchange, as they contained many novelties and were well
prepared. The area of Middle Tennessee
was an unexplored region, botanically, and I claim the honor of being the
pioneer in this field. …
In the year 1890 my entire
collection, the second largest herbarium in the South, came into the
possession of the University of Tennessee, at Knoxville, and as I cannot, by
my advanced years, expect to add much to its enlargement, I am happy to know
it is hands under whose care it will be well preserved and utilized.* While the pursuit of botany never brought
me any financial advantages, I acknowledge that it was a mighty protector in
keeping me out of the way of social corruption, and it gave me many hours of
the purest enjoyment of life and brought me into friendly relations with many
excellent men and women.
in 1934 Morrill Hall which housed the University of Tennessee Herbarium
burned to the ground and all 50,000 specimens – including Gattinger’s
– were destroyed.
are a plethora of plants named in honor of Augustin Gattinger:
Alexander (now Eurybia hemispherica
(Alexander) G.L. Nesom)
Solidago gattingeri Chapm. ex A. Gray
Dormanna gattingeri Kuntze
(A. Gray) McVaugh
Dalea gattingeri (A.
Nash (now Panicum philadelphicum
Bernh. Ex Trin.)
Small (now Clematis viorna
Ashe (now Crataegus pruinosa (Wendl. f.) K. Koch)
L.H. Bailey (now Rubus laudatus
Works by Augustin Gattinger:
Augustin (1901) The flora of Tennessee
and a philosophy of botany, respectfully dedicated to the citizens of
Tennessee. Nashville, TN: Press of Gospel Advocate Publishing Co.
Augustin (1894) The medicinal plants
of Tennessee, exhibiting their commercial value, with an analytical key,
descriptions in aid of their recognition, and notes relating to their
distribution, time and mode of collection, and preparation for the drug
market. Nashville, TN: F. M. Paul, Printer.
Augustin (1887) The
Tennessee flora; with special reference to the flora of Nashville. Phaenogams and
vascular cryptogams. Nashville,
TN: published by the author.
Works about Augustin Gattinger:
Oakes, Henry N. (1932) A brief sketch of the life and works
of Augustin Gattinger. Nashville, TN: Cullom & Ghertner Co.
Halley, Robert Ambrose (1904) Dr. Augustin Gattinger: the
pioneer botanist of Tennessee. Nashville, TN:
The Cumberland Press.