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Agustín Stahl

Puerto Rican Naturalist
Pineapple (Ananas comosus) | Stahl Collection, U.S. National Herbarium, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Did you know that… ?
  • ... Stahl introduced the practice of decorating Christmas trees to Puerto Rico? His parents were German and Dutch, so he was familiar with the tradition.
  • ... although he wasn't born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Stahl grew up there and always considered it his hometown?
  • ...Stahl was widowed three times? His fourth wife survived him upon his death in 1917.
  • ... Stahl was arrested more than once while Puerto Rico was under Spanish rule? His liberal views and extensive travelling throughout the island garnered suspicion from government officials.
  • ... Stahl was an advocate for creating a natural history museum in Puerto Rico?
Cucurbita moschata | Stahl Collection, U.S. National Herbarium, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
  • 1842 – January 21 – Born in Curaçao
  • 1843 – February 6 – Moves with his family to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
  • 1853 – Goes to Germany to complete his education
  • 1864 – Returns to Puerto Rico with a medical degree, specializing in surgery
  • 1874 – Publishes his first article on the yellow mastic, Sideroylon foetidissimum
  • 1886 – Begins publishing Studies of the Flora of Puerto Rico
  • 1904 – Begins publishing articles in Boletín de la Asociacíon Médicaabout the medicinal practices among the indigenous people of Puerto Rico
  • 1917 – Dies in Puerto Rico. That same year, a plan to establish a natural history museum in Puerto Rico is approved.

As with many naturalists at the time, Agustín Stahl studied medicine, but was drawn to the study of the natural sciences. He spent much of his free time studying the plants and animals of Puerto Rico. He even served as professor of Zoology, Botany, Mineralogy, and German at the Instituto de Enseñanza Superior for six years. Although he was interested in many aspects of natural science, he is best known and credited for his work in botany. Over a span of six years, he published installments of Studies of the flora of Puerto Rico, which, although incomplete, was the first detailed work on the subject. Unfortunately, the accompanying watercolors were not included in the work due to financial reasons. The illustrations were thought lost until they were rediscovered in the 1920s. Stahl's work may not have garnered him the attention he thought it deserved at the time, but today he is recognized as an important part of Puerto Rico's scientific history.