Christiaan Hendrik Persoon

German mycologist who made additions to Linnaeus' mushroom taxonomy (1761-1836)

Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1 February 1761 – 16 November 1836) studied fungus who made additions to Linnaeus' mushroom taxonomy.

Christiaan Hendrik Persoon
Born(1761-02-01)February 1, 1761
DiedNovember 16, 1836(1836-11-16) (aged 75)
Known forestablishing starting points for fungal taxonomy
Scientific career
FieldsMycology, Taxonomy
Author abbrev. (botany)Pers.

Early life


Persoon was born in South Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. He was the third child of an immigrant Pomeranian father and Dutch mother.[1] His mother died soon after he was born; at the age of thirteen his father (who died a year later) sent him to Europe for his education.



He started his education studying theology at Halle. In 1784 at the age 22 Persoon switched to medicine at Leiden and Göttingen. He received a doctorate from the "Kaiserlich-Leopoldinisch-Carolinische Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher" in 1799.[2]

Later years


He moved to Paris in 1802 where he spent the rest of his life. He rented an upper floor of a house in a poor part of town. In his later life he was unemployed, unmarried, poor and kept to himself. He did correspond with botanists throughout Europe however. Because of his financial difficulties, Persoon agreed to donate his herbarium to the House of Orange, in return for an adequate pension for life.[3]

Academic career


The origin of Persoon's botanical interest is unknown. The earliest of his writings was Abbildungen der Schwämme (Illustrations of the fungi). It was published in three parts. The first was published in 1790. The second in 1791. The third was published and 1793. Between 1805 and 1807, he published two volumes of his Synopsis plantarum Archived 2011-05-20 at the Wayback Machine. This was a popular work describing 20,000 species of all types of plants. But his pioneering work was in fungi. He wrote several things related to mushrooms and other forms of fungi. Beginning with the Synopsis methodica fungorum (1801); it is the starting point for nomenclature of the Uredinales, Ustilaginales, and the Gasteromycetes. In 1815, he was elected a corresponding member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The genus Persoonia is a variety of small Australian trees and shrubs and was named after him.


  • Duane Isely, One hundred and one botanists (Iowa State University Press, 1994), pp. 124–126.
  1. Chater A.O., Brummitt, R.K. (1966). Subspecies in the works of Christiaan Hendrik Persoon. Taxon 15(4):143-8.
  2. de Zeeuw, R. (1939). Notes on the life of Persoon. Mycologia 31(3): 369-70.
  3. Petersen R.H. (1977). Some brief reflections on C.H. Persoon. Kew Bulletin 31(3):695-98.

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