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Updated:  Aug 12, 2013
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Armand David

Missionary priest and zoologist, b. 1826; d. 1900

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


David, ARMAND, missionary priest and zoologist, b. 1826; d. 1900. He entered the Congregation of the Mission in 1848, having already displayed great fondness for the natural sciences. Ordained in 1862, he was shortly afterwards sent to Peking, and began there a collection of material for a museum of natural history, mainly zoological, but in which botany and geology and palaeontology were also well represented. At the request of the French Government important specimens from his collection were sent to Paris and aroused the greatest interest. The Jardin des Plantes commissioned him to undertake scientific journeys through China to make further collections. He succeeded in obtaining many specimens of hitherto unknown animals and plants, and the value of his comprehensive collections for the advance of systematic zoology and especially for the advancement of animal geography received universal recognition from the scientific world. He himself summed up his labors in an address delivered before the International Scientific Congress of Catholics at Paris in April, 1888. He had found in China altogether 200 species of wild animals, of which 63 were hitherto unknown to zoologists; 807 species of birds, 65 of which had not been described before. Besides, a large collection of reptiles, batrachians, and fishes was made and handed over to specialists for further study, also a large number of moths and insects, many of them hitherto unknown, were brought to the museum of the Jardin des Plantes. What Father David's scientific journeys meant for botany may be inferred from the fact that among the rhododendrons which he collected no less than fifty-two new species were found and among the primulce about forty, while the Western Mountains of China furnished an even greater number of hitherto unknown species of gentian. The most remarkable of hitherto unknown animals found by David was a species of bear (ursus melanoleucus, the black-white bear) which is a connecting link between the cats and bears. Another remarkable animal found by him received the scientific name of claphurus davidianus. Of this animal the Chinese say that it has the horns of the stag, the neck of the camel, the foot of the cow, and the tail of the ass. It had disappeared with the exception of a few preserved in the gardens of the Emperor of China, but David succeeded in securing a specimen and sent it to Europe. In the midst of his work as a naturalist Father David did not neglect his missionary labors, and was noted for his careful devotion to his religious duties and for his obedience to every detail of his rules.

JAMES J. WALSH


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