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Paul Gaimard

1796 – 1858

Paul Gaimard (1796-1858), naturalist and naval surgeon, joined the French navy after distinguishing himself at the naval medical school at Toulon. Soon he was appointed surgeon and naturalist aboard the Uranie, commanded by Louis Claude de Freycinet who was charged with investigating the meteorology, oceanography, and natural history of vast areas of the South Pacific Ocean. Assisting Gaimard were Jean Rene Constant Quoy, surgeon and naturalist; Charles Gaudichaud-Beaupre, pharmacologist and botanist; and François Arago’s youngest brother, Jacques, draftsman. Upon their return from the circumnavigation of the globe (1817–1820) Gaimard and Quoy prepared a detailed account of their zoological discoveries. Gaimard thus early made his mark in one of the great periods of French maritime activity and earnest overseas scientific exploration. Early in 1826 he toured Europe to inspect natural history collections, and to prepare for his departure as first surgeon to JSC Dumont d’Urville’s expedition on the Astrolabe, seeking to conduct a scientific survey of Oceania and to find traces of the lost La Perouse expedition. Between 1826 and 1829 Gaimard was again in the South Pacific, and once again he and Quoy prepared an account of their zoological collections and ethnographic discoveries. While this work was in press, Gaimard went to Russia to observe the outbreak of cholera there, writing the classic pioneering account of the hitherto-unknown disease. He led a large scientific team aboard the Recherche to Iceland and Greenland in the mid-1830s, and from 1838 to 1840 served as director of the Scientific Commission for the North, exploring in Lapland and on Spitsbergen and the Faeroes. Little is known of his later life, but it is thought that he settled in Paris.

Updated 2018