Born in 1781 in Germany he was a gifted student gaining his PhD at the age of 19.After that he studied theology for three years in Würzburg, then medicine and the natural sciences, qualifying as a medical doctor in 1806. In 1808 he was awarded a scholarship by Maximilian I Joseph, the King of Bavaria, and went to Paris to study zoology. At that time Paris was the centre for the natural sciences with renowned scientists such as Cuvier, Buffon, Lamarck and Etienne Geofrrey de Saint-Hilaire at the height of their reputations.
In October 1810 King Maximilian I Joseph appointed him assistant to the Bavarian Royal Academy of Sciences with special responsibility for the natural history exhibits.Then in 1816 the Archduchess Carolina Josepha Leopoldina, daughter of Emperor Francis II of Austria was betrothed to Dom Pedro d'Alcantara, son of John VI of Portugal, who had been living in Brazil with his court following the invasion of Portugal by Napoleon in 1807. A group of academicians from Vienna was invited to travel to Brazil with the imperial party and Maximilian I agreed with Francis II that two members of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences should accompany them. Thus in 1817 Spix and the botanist, Dr. Martius, took ship from Trieste to South America.
At the end of 1820 Spix and Martius returned after experiencing enormous privation on their various expeditions into the interior of Brazil bringing specimens of 85 species of mammal, 350 of birds, 130 amphibian, 116 fish and 2,700 insects as well as 6,500 botanical items. They also brought back 57 species of living animals, mainly monkeys, parrots and curassows. This vast collection was to form the basis for the Natural History Museum in Munich. The King awarded both scientists a knighthood and a pension for life.
Aged nearly 40 when he returned, von Spix as he now was set to work to catalogue and publish his findings despite extremely poor health resulting from his sojourn in Brazil. The report on the expedition was published in three volumes in 1823, 1828 and 1831, the last two being prepared and published by von Martius as von Spix had died in Munich in 1826 aged 46.
In 1824 he published Avium Brasiliensium Species Novae, which included a description (in Latin) of the Hyacinthine Macaw, which he dedicated to his royal sponsor, designating the species Anodorhynchus maximiliani. The original text is as follows:-
Araras inter et Aratingas intermedius, familieriis, macrocourus, infra nares et supra genas plumis tectus; rostro supra modum crasso, unicinato, edentato; periophthalmiis parum, basi mandibulae inferioris tota nudis; cauda gradata, elongata.
Maximus, cobaltino-caeruleus, periophthalmiis basique mandibulae inferioris membranosa nudis, flavis; rostro quam maxime crasso, pedibus alis infra, caudaque subtus nigris; rectricibus intermediis reliquis longioribis.
Descripto. Corpus robustissimum, Arara Macaone haud minus; supra subtusque saturate cobaltino-caeruleum, colore vix varians; caput, praecipue rostrum supra modum crassum; caput, nec non collum ac abdomen pallidus cobaltino-caerulea; reliquum corpus saturate cobaltino-caeruleum, plumis basi, raro as latus internum nigris, scapis omnibus nigris; genae loraque plumosa; periophthalmia parum, basis mandibulae inferioris tota nuda, flavia; alae infra caudaque subtus nigerrunae; remiges longae, cruciatae; cauda longissima, gradata, supra cobaltino-caerulea, rectricibus intermediis reliquis longioribus; rostrum totum nigrum, quam maxime crassum, compressum, altum, superius apice uncinatum, edentatum, inferius superiore brevius, fornicatum, amplum, suboblique ascendens, supra apice obtusum, medio et latere emarginatum; oculi exigui; nares basales, subsuperae, rotundae; tarsi digitis multo breviores, robusti, depressi, reticulati, nigri; digiti longi, nigri, posticus externus cacteris fere longior; ungues longi, compressi, curvi.
Longitudo corporis 2°, 9', caudae 1°7', rostri 3', tarsi 11", digiti postici externi 21/2', altitudo rostri 3'.
Habitat gregarius, aprum fugax et ab incolis niger vel Arara pretto nominatus in sylvis campestribus Provinciae Goyatazes prope pagum St. Mariae, mas a foemina non diversus, voce rauca raro vociferans; differt ab Arara hyacintho a me depicto (Tab, XXIII), quem Lathamius cum illo erronae commutavit, magnitudine corporis plus quam dupla, rostro quintipulo crassiore, colore corporis non pallide et saphyrine caerulescenti, nec sub sole viridi-resplendente sed saturate cobaltino-caeruleo, genis lorisque non nudis, genis non cinereis , cauda multo longiore etc., ideoque a me tanquam species ab Arara hyacinthino Lath. diversa et ob magnitudinem ac pulchritudinem nomini Maximiliani Josephi Bavariae Regis I., Augustissimi Authoris ac Fautoris itineris nostri per Brasiliam suscepti operumque literariorum a nobis editorum devotissime consecrata.
Aves Tom I.
Saturday 13th April 2019
I have been made aware of an organisation - Jardins da Arara de lear - set up in Brazil to solve the problem of the lack of licuri plams, which used to provide much of the natural diet of Lear's Macaws in the wild. As regular visitors to the ... Read More »
" Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret "
( If you drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will soon find a way back)
Horace (65-8 BC)