Joachim Barrande – palaeontologist by soul and heart – Part One

Podobizna Joachim Barrande. Na černobílé fotografii měl patrnou pleš, krátké patrně šedivé vlasy, šedivé vousy na bocích, kruhy pod očima, syté obočí, spíš kulatější nos a vrásky táhnoucí se na tváři od nosu připomínající zvonek. Nemá bradku ani knírek, vousy pouze po bocích tváře

Our country has become a home for many foreigners that became enamoured with it. It has become their destiny. One of them was a Frenchman called Joachim Barrande, the founder of Czech Palaeozoic science.

Barrande was born on 11 August 1799 in the South French town of Saugues, in a family of a petty cloth and rug merchant. He grew up during the Napoleonic wars period at the beginning of the industrial revolution. An although Isaac Newton had already laid down the base of modern science and Galileo Galilei had used mathematics to explain the universe one hundred years before Barrande was born, the development of science had been going quite slowly.


Barrande’s father enabled him and his younger brother to study at the most expensive schools in Paris. Joachim and later also Joseph were able to finish their studies of bridge and road engineering at the “École des ponts et chaussées“. Apart from technical knowledge, Barrande also acquired a lot of knowledge from natural sciences. He was captivated by the lectures of the foremost French natural scientists – Georga Cuvier, Jeana-Babtiste Lamarck, Alcide d´Orbigny, Adolph d´Archiac, and he started to get into the mysteries of natural sciences. After the university, he worked for several years as a construction engineer. We can still admire his technical work today – a giant bridge over the Loire river. An interesting fact is that Joseph proved successful and famous in tsarist Russia where he worked on the preparation of the construction of railroad network.

Coming to Bohemia

Barrande’s personal qualities, not only in the field of mathematics and natural sciences but also in etiquette. As can be seen from the fact that, at the end of the 30s, he was hired by Charles X. to become his grandson’s and the throne’s successor Henry’s tutor. But an important political change influenced greatly his life. The Bourbons were exiled from France in 1830. And Barrande, who was faithful to the royal family, followed them into the exile. They first briefly settled in Scottish Edinburgh. Barrande, thanks to the geologist Sir Roderick Murchison, for the first time got to study Palaeozoic fossils. After that, in 1832, the royal court moved to Bohemia, to Buštěhrad, and then to the Prague Castle. As the tutor of prince Henry, he quickly got to meet the Czech intellectuals, the Prince’s tutor of German language František Palacký, or with the President of the First Privileged Prague Railroad Company, and an enthusiastic fossils collector, Count Kašpar Šternberk. He also became friend of the curator of natural science collections in the Czech Royal Museum, František Xaver Zipp. He also befriended Václav Hanka, the librarian of the Czech Museum, who helped him greatly.

Source: Lomy a těžba