The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983 Page: 402
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Surprisingly little is known about Berlandier's life before he went
to Mexico. He seems to have been born sometime before 1805 in east-
ern France near the Swiss border. His parents were poor, and while
still in his teens Berlandier was sent to nearby Geneva, Switzerland,
where he became an apprentice in a pharmaceutical establishment.
His serious interest in plants came to the attention of Augustin Pyra-
mus de Candolle and other naturalists of the Academy of Natural Sci-
ences in Geneva, and they encouraged him to study with them. Ber-
landier seems to have made rapid progress, and his mentors arranged
for one of his botanical studies to be published.
In 1826 De Candolle and three other Geneva naturalists arranged
for Berlandier to go to Mexico to collect plant and animal specimens,
to make appropriate environmental notes, and to send these back to
Geneva. Berlandier's opportunities to study the natural history of Mex-
ico were extended by his appointment to the Mexican Boundary Com-
mission under Manuel de Mier y Teran. The commission, which de-
parted Mexico City in November, 1827, was charged with collecting
geographical information, determining the defensive needs of Texas,
and making alliances and commercial treaties with the various Indian
tribes there. For reasons that are not very clear, the Geneva naturalists
claimed that Berlandier's collecting performance in Mexico was unsat-
isfactory, and later some of the botanists of Europe and America re-
garded Berlandier in less than favorable terms. So little is known about
Berlandier's personal relationships with the Geneva naturalists that
this aspect of his career is difficult to evaluate. Cornelius H. Muller, in
his introduction to Berlandier's Journey, has tried to make sense of the
few facts that are now available. He seems to feel that judgments made
of Berlandier's field performance were affected by a certain amount of
professional jealousy. It is of interest to note that in his Journey Ber-
landier shows no awareness of any delinquency on his part and never
makes any disparaging remarks about his Geneva sponsors or about
anyone with whom he traveled in Mexico.
Berlandier entered Mexico at Tampico, which is where his recorded
land travel begins. After a trip southward down the Gulf Coast to Tux-
pan, he went from Tampico to Mexico City, where the Boundary Com-
mission was preparing for travel. While waiting for the commission to
complete its preparations, Berlandier made a circular trip southward as
far as Cuernavaca. The longest portion of Berlandier's travel book is
concerned with the Boundary Commission trip, whose route passed
through Queretaro, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, Saltillo, Monterrey,
Laredo, San Antonio, and San Felipe de Austin. North of San Felipe
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983, periodical, 1982/1983; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/m1/450/: accessed May 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.