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Johann Christian Buxbaum (1693-1730) like his earlier German counterpart Johann Vesling, had studied at the University of Leiden, though in his case his educational trajectory had been decidedly German: he had studied at Leipzig, Wittenberg and Jena before travelling to Leiden. Called to St Petersburg in 1721 to take up a position as botanist in the Medical Collegium there, he later became a member of the St Petersburg Academy of Arts and Sciences. Just as Vesling had managed to travel to Egypt as physician to the patrician Cornaro, so too did Buxbaum find himself in 1724 in Constantinople in his capacity as physician to Count Alexander Ivanovich Rumyantsev, head of the Russian delegation there. By the time he returned to Russia in 1727 he had travelled through much of Asia minor.
Johann Christian Buxbaum, Plantarum minus cognitarum centuria I complectens : plantas circa Byzantium & in Oriente observatas (St. Petersburg, 1728), Cent 2, Tab 25, Euphorbia.
Buxbaum’s botanical research in Turkey was not undertaken solely because of his personal interest in the subject. As Kolchinsky (2004) remarks, the impetus came from on high – in this case from none other than Tsar Peter I (1672-1725), who had ‘initiated the investigation of Russian flora and fauna’. The publication of Buxbaum’s Plantarum minus cognitarum centuria, in 1728, marked the first publication of a botanical work in Russia and was part of this greater project. The illustrations on this page make it clear that the plants included were not specific to the Levant but also included such species as Euphorbia (spurge) and Veronica montana L., wood speedwell, which can be found in Ireland, primarily in the Burren and south-east Connemara. Linnaeus, who was well acquainted with Buxbaum’s work, later named a species of mosses after him.
Johann Christian Buxbaum, Plantarum minus cognitarum centuria I complectens : plantas circa Byzantium & in Oriente observatas (St. Petersburg, 1728), Cent. I, Tab 38, Veronica montana.
Kolchinsky, E. I. (2004), ‘The Role of Eighteenth Century Russian Expeditions in the Development of Natural History’ in Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences vol 55, Supplement II, no 8, pp. 106-116.