The purest pleasures of Rudolph Philippi, the Sage who explored Chile

The purest pleasures of Rudolph Philippi, the Sage who explored Chile

The German naturalist Rudolph Amandus Philippi (1808-1904) came to Chile in 1851 with the idea of staying at least one year, but remained lifelong and described Chilean flora and fauna as no one had done. Relentless and methodical, he made dozens of expeditions through our territory and was the key architect of the development of the natural sciences in the country. "The prodigious natural world order", book reissued this year by the seal of the U. Austral, allows you to look over his extensive legacy, not only covering our biological diversity but also cultural. His ethnography of the Mapuche Huilliche, included in the book, is a valuable historical document very relevant for times running, due to the acumen of Philippi when certain myths in its place.

"Nothing more sublime, no more religious than the study of nature. [...] The contemplation of its various products will always be an inexhaustible source of the purest pleasures, which never let regrets and not alert never petty passions."
R. A. Philippi

The wise"Philippi", as it would be known in Chile, was already a respected scientist's 42 years on the day that sailed on Board of the "beautiful", in Hamburg, bound for Valparaiso. Come to try their luck in the periphery of the planet had been convinced by his brother Bernardus, a brash sailor that Rudolph considered a "cold rationalist" and "fantasy", and the Chilean State had commissioned to bring Germans to colonize the area of the Llanquihue Lake. Both had received a refined education carried out by his mother, María Anna, a cultured and progressive woman who left the father of the Philippi once this allowed a slip with a servant and left pregnant. They also passed the philosopher Heinrich Pestalozzi College, famous for its innovative method focused on contemplation and not in memory. Consequence of that method were Rudolph early trips to the mountains of the Jura, which incubated in him the passion for science.

Philippi was one of those naturalists of the 19th century that, inspired by the taxonomic Carlos Linneo paradigm and the adventurous spirit of Alexander von Humboldt (his teacher at the University of Berlin), they roamed the world to describe and classify to the nature in all its aspects. The unquenchable thirst for observation that moved to the new Apostles of knowledge and that would allow Charles Darwin conceived the evolution of species. In the 1830s, while Darwin binding loose on the deck of the "Beagle", ends Philippi was his first explorations of the Italian territory, that made him a name among their peers, in particular by studying on Sicilian molluscs. Towards the end of the 1940s, however, Germany had entered into a political and economic crisis that not offered lower future as a scientist. And Chile, after all, was one of those wilderness lands for science where could continue to contribute to the cause of knowledge. He decided to come for a year and then study the situation.

He disembarked in Valparaiso in December 1851, and stayed until July 23, 1904, the day of his death. In 1852, his brother Bernardus was marginalized company colonizing for bringing German Protestant rather than Catholic. In compensation, he was appointed Governor of Magallanes; weeks later, his trail was lost forever in the plains of Patagonia, presumably killed by indigenous tehuelches which, according to the gross rumor that circulated at the time, also ate it up. In Chile began the Decade of Manuel Montt and the young Republic, in addition to populate their extreme zones, aspired to establish a modern State capable of organizing and exploit their territory. Of course, for that, I had to meet him. Claudio Gay French and Polish Ignacio Domeyko, who was presented to Philippi capital society - initiated the task. Philippi, who did not know it was a Sunday, was made responsible to continue it for the next fifty years.


"The prodigious natural world order" (editions UACh), published in 2003 and reissued this year, compiling various writings and drawings of Philippi, in addition to articles by specialists pondering the scope of his work and a delicate preface of the deceased Ulrike Steenbuck historian. This reissue adds eight unpublished letters that he wrote his daughter her from the family farm located in the South, near La Union, and bringing images of time on daily life in that area at the end of the 19th century, although not much more.

The completeness being the decisive feature of the legacy of Philippi, summarize it becomes impossible. Soon consignemos that the Chilean Government did not hesitate to appoint him director of the Museum of Natural History - charge that held until the 89 years - and Professor of the u. of Chile, and that he did not hesitate to undertake his countless travels the country (often next to s u son Federico, whose contributions were also crucial). The first thing was a sacrificial expedition to the Atacama desert (1853-1854). Four months on the back of a mule, feeding on toasted flour, fat and salt. The report elaborated, first scientific recognition of the desert, was received with enthusiasm in Europe and with total indifference in Chile, evil that never ceased to suffer. Before your journey through the desert, the State entrusted create a botanical garden. When he was asked what budget available, the Inspector of the Quinta Normal confessed that not has had allocated any money to that effect "because the Government did not know what was a botanical garden". Silver appeared 23 years later.

Without resources but with very good health, Philippi continued traveling through Chile to 82 years and published more than 400 articles - in latin, German and Spanish - realising their findings. Thus it became to catalog more than a thousand species of plants that science considers still valid, and make it so far in the largest descriptor of Chilean flora. The same made with more than 600 animal species, mostly insects. Shortly after arriving in the country already it reported new species of ducks and flamingos. Later dealt the huemul and an endless list of animals that includes dolphins, snakes, rodents, sharks, turtles, crabs, sea urchins and starfish, as well as known concern about fossil molluscs. Neat cartoonist, also committed the sin of the naturalists of his time: slightly exaggerate the symmetry of the copies and 'complete' their imperfections, idealizing the accuracy of nature.

With the Museum of Natural history as a center of operations, Philippi was for decades the main driver of the natural sciences in Chile. Its popularity abroad allowed him to Exchange species with different museums in the world, maintained correspondence with Darwin, Humboldt and Florentino Ameghino, among other eminent 19th century, and was a member of more than fifty scientific societies of Latin America and Europe. All of which was facilitated by the variety of languages that dominated: English, French, German, Italian, latin, Greek and Spanish.

In 1866, after much deal with the influences of the clergy, he established the obligatory nature of the science education in Chile, at least at the National Institute. As there was in the country a manual to teach the natural sciences, he wrote. It also worried of spreading certain European topics, which had news through foreign publications that received in the national press. As you can guess, this intellectual performance was supported by almost monastic work routines, not varying the weekends too. He was a surly man nor a bad conversationalist, but little interested and social life, even less since the death of her spouse in 1863.

The texts of his authorship included in "The prodigious natural world order", include that writes the naturalist and which touch on cultural and Social Affairs. The first allows you to appreciate the Explorer traveling in conditions anything comfortable, but so focused on the descriptive rigor not given licenses for fanfare of adventurer. So can follow him in a difficult trip on horseback heading to Puyehue Lake, sleeping in pastures inhospitable, avoiding torrential rivers and trails bogged down, all to be able to say this: "imagine a tree more than 100 feet tall, with a!" trunk between four and five feet thick, white snow and flowers almost as big as the garden biofitas, parrots savoring their outbreaks and sowing the ground with leaves of flowers! "."

Court items humanist are a little more daring. In "Conventional lies" makes a lapidary count of electoral fraud that has been able to testify in Chile, perpetrated by landowners who headed the tenants vote either got drunk them on the eve to avoid that they arrived to vote. However, and with the forgiveness of the scientists, the most interesting text of the book is undoubtedly "about the indigenous people of the province of Valdivia".

Tracing to graphite and pen with ink.

Ceramic attached by Philippi to the diaguita stage of Inca influence culture. Drawing freehand with graphite and demarcated with pen to ink.

Drawing pen with ink and strokes with pigment-wax.

Printing: lithography in two colors with tweaks to the watercolor gouache and ink, original drawing of Philippi.

Pen and wash drawing with ink and watercolor brush.

Pen and wash drawing with ink and watercolor brush.

Pen and wash drawing with ink and watercolor brush.

Pen and wash drawing with ink and watercolor brush.

Pen and wash drawing with ink and watercolor brush.

He founded San Juan, close to La Union, 1856.Dibujo to pen and wash with ink and watercolor brush.


There is no small coincidence that Philippi published his study of the huilliches in 1869, just as Claudio Gay, in his native village in the South of France, was preparing to write his extensive work on the mapuche people - still unpublished - from the notes that had taken in Chile. While the report of Philippi is much more concise, both have common being the first ethnographies of the mapuche people, carried out with a scientific approach, with the sole purpose of knowing them and not to colonize them or christianize them. Also the links that one has written his work in French and the other in German, which was not due to a Euro-centrism of the authors but to the zero interest that raised the topic on the Chilean illustrated class (Philippi wrote his article for a German magazine) more even though Gay and Philippi vision of the own mapuches were interested about their culture.

"Don't like that Chileans of Spanish origin called Indians and prefer to be called natural or cholos", scoring Philippi at the beginning, clarifying that they call themselves Mapuche or Huilliche (Mapuche of southern). A valuable aspect of this story are the comparisons with what he understands by "Araucanians", i.e. the Mapuche in Araucania. So reports that the huilliches dress pants, pronounced different some letters and do not have "horrible belief that the cause of death of a boss at a young age is always due to acts of witchcraft, so you have to kill to whom the sorcerer or machi conside Re responsible". It is worth remembering that Gay dedicated eloquent pages to this practice.

The close relationship that makes every detail that is able to appreciate Philippi betrays a deep respect that if it comes to the case, is not afraid to turn into admiration. After a thorough exposure of anatomical qualities, writes: "is a beautiful image of strength which man gives when he makes rock with ease the heavy axe raising her beautiful breast while his Kinky black hair falls over his broad shoulders. [...] Women, as expressed by a German painter, has shoulders wide, sculptural, which together with the nape of the neck, chest and arms, are frequently a perfect beauty, but the breasts become deformed soon becoming too large". And in general terms: "the usual expression of the face is calm and pleasant, frequently bordering on apathy, but also look well rogues faces and others quite stubborn".

Later, Philippi takes charge of the prejudices which predominated in the Mapuche Chilean society, and began to lament that a text of this type has not been read at the time. After quote a foreign text resulting in the common stigmata (loose, sad, Liars, vengeful Indians), Philippi says: "as you have few needs, Valdivian Indian impulse more work than necessary to meet them, is missing but" cannot be said to be lazy. Their fields and vegetable gardens are usually arranged with much more care than the of the inhabitants of Spanish or mestizo origin [...] are well diligent, but you can't have them for too long at work; how much they hold between ten and fourteen days, after they leave their houses with one or the other excuse. Has been described them as robbers and is true, it is not uncommon for theft, but nor much less often as the descendants of Spaniards, among which even there are many who like to pass by Knights and practice cattle theft almost as profession".

Resorting to the same comparative method, the scientist analyzes fame of drunks that weighs on the indigenous. He admits that "the tendency to drink is his biggest Vice", but see that something similar could be said of German, English, Russian, or black. "Valdivia Indians can consume days until the last drop of the barrel and because it often happens that there is no servant in the House. Mestizos do virtually the same thing." On the other hand, "among the Valdivian Indians rarely fights occur and should occur, there is never dead, while in the provinces of the North [from central Chile Araucania] drunken pulls out the knife to the less occasion and stabbed his best friend his brother or his wife".

In terms of historical grudges, Philippi says that the huilliches are aware of have been stripped, but not retained spirits of war or intend to take the "Spanish", as they continued calling whites, except for some occasional Lone Ranger that It used to be neutralized by their own countrymen. Among other reasons, because they lived well: they had their land and their animals, didn't pay taxes or doing military service. In addition, they had joined their daily lives foreign products that were already not willing to dispense with. However, clarifies Philippi, they resent being regarded with contempt, be deceived and exploited often, "and when they meet for a binge songs of longing are still frequently heard lost freedom that often end in tears, but I haven't" Unable to perceive any sign of extreme hatred. It is striking that has been the memory of the heroes of the struggle against the Spanish, a Lautaro, a Colocolo, a Yanqueu or the Indians of Valdivia and the Araucanians. Only they know in a very general way that their ancestors fought the Spaniards".

According to Philippi, who also studies dedicated to the indigenous cultures of the North of Chile and Easter Island, almost all of the young huilliches understand the Spanish, but only a small part of the largest. In addition, all were baptized, but did not seem to have understood Christianity more that some forms external, as do the sign of the cross or repeat certain prayers. Less superstitious, in appearance, than their relatives of the Araucanía region, were still practicing "some pagan customs", but in strict confidentiality. "To spend a few weeks in the moors of the Osorno volcano, I did kill a calf to my Indian companions; they spread a little of the blood of the animal by invoking the Pillán, divinity which produces Thunder, lightning, volcanic eruptions and other similar phenomena and unfairly identify that with our devil. They would not explain the meaning of the words that were made during this Act".

The wonderful natural world order
Rudolph Amandus Philippi
Editions UACh, 2017, 198 pages