The collector - Friedrich Martin Josef Welwitsch

Friedrich Martin Josef Welwitsch

Friedrich Martin Josef Welwitsch

Friedrich Martin Josef Welwitsch was born in Austria in 1806. He studied medicine at Vienna University, but moved to Portugal in 1839, where he subsequently obtained a commission as a naturalist collector.

After several years of exploring Portugal’s territory, and making extensive collections of the Portuguese flora and fauna, in 1852 he was appointed by the Portuguese King to explore the territory now known as Angola. And in 1853, he set sail towards St Paulo de Loanda.

During his 7 years in Angola, he collected over 5,000 species of plants and 3,000 species of insects and animals, a large proportion of which were new to science.

However, it was this remarkable plant that amazed Welwitsch who, at its discovery, knelt down and looked at it for a long time trying to figure out what he had in front of him.

He named it as Tumboa, the Angolan name, but Sir Joseph Hooker, Director of Kew Gardens, later renamed it as Welwitschia in honour of the collector.

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