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Biography: Francisco José de Caldas | Colombian naturalist and geographer.


(Francisco José de Caldas y Tenorio; Popayan, 1768 - Santafe de Bogota, 1816) Colombian naturalist and geographer. Without just having adequate means of work, in "darkness" surrounding to America, according to its own expression, he did research and discoveries that surprised the men as illustrious as Mutis and Humboldt, who was friend and colleague.

Francisco José de Caldas
Member of the second generation of Hispanic American illustrated, Francisco José de Caldas, called "the wise", showed from child keen interest in mathematics, physical sciences and astronomy. After studying in his native land, he moved to Santa Fe and graduated as lawyer just to give taste to his family, as he soon returned to Popayan and decided to dedicate himself to what most interested him: astronomy, mathematics and the physical sciences.
In 1795 he had devoted to trade in clothing in Quito, La Plata and Timana, opportunity that took the opportunity to determine the geographical position of the places he visited and for observations of nature and of the uses and customs of different peoples. His basic team consisted of a compass, a barometer and a thermometer. When not getting the instruments he needed he built them: manufactured a gnomon, a sundial and other measuring instruments.
After various experiments observed that "distilled water, boiling temperature, is proportional to atmospheric pressure", new physical law that allowed him to measure the heights through new procedures and that it would be later used by Humboldt, who surprisingly was forgotten in this case inventor. He called hypsometer, instrument he invented, used to measure the altitude of a location, noting the temperature that reaches this site the water when it starts to boil.
In 1801 he published the article "The true height of the Cerro de Guadalupe" in mail curious and commercial. Interested in Botany, Caldas has had linked with Sage José Celestino Mutis and, through this, to German Alexander von Humboldt, who was preparing a trip to Quito. The German was surprised the caucano instruments precision, but rejected his proposal to accompany him on the trip that projected across America. After spending three and a half years of study and research in Ecuador, in 1804 Caldas published Journey from Quito to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean by Malbucho and journey into the heart of Barnuevo.
In 1805 it is linked as an astronomer at the Royal Botanical expedition and was named director of the Astronomical Observatory of Santa Fe. To the Royal Botanical expedition of 1805, Francisco José de Caldas brought sixteen loads of different materials and two volumes descriptive uses, customs, industries, agriculture, dyes, resources, population, endemic diseases, defects and literature in the area that had traveled between March and December of that year: it left Quito northward, he explored the region between Chota and Guáitara River the province of Pasto, the of Popayán to Quilichao, outskirts of Cali by the West and up to the Páramo de Guanacas by North, silver, Timana, Neiva and other districts of the upper Magdalena.

Francisco José de Caldas
The year 1808 was the most important in his life: began the publication of the Weekly of the Nuevo Reino de Granada, which later completed with memories, where the bulk of his scientific work appeared. In 1810 he married Maria Manuela Barona. With the advent of independence, Caldas was devoted to the study of science military, since the Nariño President appointed him captain of the Corps of engineers Cosmographers. He was then tasked with the publication of the Calendar of the provinces United of the new Kingdom of Granada and other missions.
But the war against the Spaniards counted it among its victims. When the capital fell in the hands of the royalists, he fled to the South and took refuge in the family estate of Paispamba, where he was imprisoned and sent, along with other Patriots, to Santa Fe. The first Colombian scientist was sentenced to be shot in the back, which applied from October 29, 1816. The President of the Court which judged it said on your own that that "Spain does not need wise men"; but Spain was later embarrassed the ignorance and cruelty of its representative and dedicated to the illustrious Caldas a plate of marble in the National Library of Madrid.

Works of Francisco José de Caldas

Francisco José de Caldas has been called "the first Colombian scientist" and "father of geography and national engineering", but should take into account the limitations of the time, theoretical inconsistencies of the training they received and their effective performance. The most significant are their approaches on Science and intuition, as well as the criticism that came about then cultural institutions; all successful, although it is true that diffuse and often formulated under the effect of discontent and disappointment. Caldas was a classic Creole illustrated formed in the run-up to the independence of the colonies, and as such was assigned to a certain anti-Americanism or nationalism still in training; from that perspective, it raised the need for science on the continent was assumed by the Creoles and developed by them.
Regarding the geopolitical importance of the current Colombia and its possibilities of development, Caldas was certainly a visionary. In his reflections on the cultural, social and economic situation in America, he promoted the need for a deep and accurate knowledge of the American condition itself prior to the impetus of the industry, the economy, trade and other productive activities to subvert the situation of excessive dependence on the European metropolis that America had been suffering during colonial centuries.
It was not another aspiration that this encouraged their efforts to lift geographic charts and maps of all kinds. And in particular on the former Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada, Caldas considered, due to its geography and location, a region geo-strategic with long travel, both for its variety of landscapes and climates (and, therefore, of agricultural and livestock production) as by the potential it had to trade, thanks largely to its proximity to the isthmus of Panama.
The scientific and literary work of Francisco José de Caldas is essentially stealing the Weekly of the new Kingdom of Granada, which was published weekly from 1808 to 1809 and continued monthly books until 1810, year in which was suspended. It saw the light of two fundamental works of illustrious men of Science: State of the geography of the Viceroyalty of Santa Fe de Bogotá, with relation to the economy and trade and the influence of climate on the organized beings.
His famous letters warns the influence of Rousseau, Feijoo and Jovellanos, and in all his work, a pro-European tendency and a titanic effort to incorporate the European cultural tradition to America. In his work at the forefront of the Daily political, organ of the struggle for independence in his obituary article on Mutis, in their reports and even in his botanical studies, there is an undoubted literary quality, product of the artistic flair of this extraordinary man of science neogranadino.

Of the influence of climate on the organized beings

Published in 1808 in numbers 22 to 30 of the Weekly of the Nuevo Reino de Granada, this work confronts Caldas in a medium term in discussions on this topic. Caldas fails to sign the theses extremists of those who attribute to such factors (climate and power) a decisive influence on the mental conformation of the man, not nor the no less exaggerated of those who deny any kind of influence on the human soul to the same natural factors.
It begins by defining what he meant by climate, influx of food and physical Constitution of man, concluding that the human body is subject to all laws of matter and that, when his material part undergoes alteration, his spirit participates in it. It then examined all the elements which constitute the physical climate, in its concept, pointing out the forced influence of each of them must exercise in man and in animals, and demonstrating, through multiple examples, to exert it. With amazing insight, Caldas sensed in this Treaty includes quite a few of the issues and problems that current science, studied and analyzed under the name of geopsychology.

State of the geography of the Viceroyalty of Santa Fe de Bogotá, in relation to the economy and trade

Apart from its scientific activities and scholars, the ideas of Francisco José de Caldas on politics, economics and history have reached us particularly through this work, first published in 1808 in the numbers from 1 to 7 of the Weekly of the Nuevo Reino de Granada.
This study describes Caldas, in large strokes, the geographical picture of the Nuevo Reino de Granada (today the Republic of Colombia), specifying its limits, its coasts, its mountainous system, its rivers, valleys and Plains. Considering the country as "oceanic corner", expresses in figures the extension of the neogranadino coast in both seas and also fixed its territorial area. It then indicates the height above the sea level, climate, flora, the quality of the soil, weather conditions and meteorological phenomena of very different and varied regions that make up the Colombian territory.
Caldas analyzes advantages implied in the geographical position of the country, in order to their relations with the other peoples of the world, as also their means of communication, land and river, in the inland traffic. The author then gives a concise idea of mineral wealth and plant products of the new Kingdom, maritime and terrestrial fauna and human races that live, grouped or scattered. Style elegant concision, which sometimes makes vibrate the lyrical string describes the wonderful spectacle of the eruption of a volcano, the thunderous Majesty of a snowstorm in the Andes or the horrors of a cataclysm in the vicinity of the equator.
Gifted with a prodigious gift of observation, Popayan scientist shows the contrast between the beauty of the native landscape and the wealth of its natural resources with poverty and backwardness of the inhabitants, calling attention to their needs and to plans of possible preparation in all spheres of life of the Colombian country, from culture to economy and trade.
With his eloquent prose and a deep scientific severity, Caldas comes to the conclusion that, after three hundred years, the rulers or intellectual minorities of the Nuevo Reino de Granada have given full account of the enormous possibilities of natural, physical, economic, social, geographical, historical and cultural which is home to this portion of the world, and which should orient itself, with accurate realistic sense towards the spiritual welfare and material of its inhabitants and become productive realities and in works of interest, not only regional, but also continental and universal significance.
Extracted from the website: Biografías y Vidas
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