Augustin Gattinger


Augustin Gattinger
(3 February 1825 – 18 July 1903)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Herbarium (NCU) has cataloged to date about 30 vascular plant specimens collected by Augustin Gattinger.   As NCU’s collection continues to be cataloged, it is possible that more specimens will be found.  Other herbaria in North America curating Augustin Gattinger’s specimens include:  Academy of Natural Sciences (PH), Iowa State University (ISC), Auburn University Museum of Natural History (AUA), Austin Peay State University (APSC), Brigham Young University (BRY:V), Brown University (BRU), Canadian Museum of Nature (CMN:CANM), Carnegie Museum of Natural History (CM), Field Museum (F), Harvard Herbaria (GH), Indiana University (IND), University of Minnesota (MIN), Marshall University (MUHW), Mississippi State University (MISSA), Missouri Botanical Garden (MO), New York Botanical Garden (NY), Ohio State University (OS), Rutgers University (CHRB), San Juan College (SJNM), Staten Island Museum (SIM), University of Cincinati (CINC), Florida Museum of Natural History (FLAS), University of Kansas (KANU), University of Michigan (MICH), University of South Carolina, Columbia (USCH), University of South Florida (USF), University of Tennessee, Knoxville (TENN), University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (UCHT), University of Vermont (VT), University of Wisconsin, Madison (WIS), and University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM). (3)

The following is from the Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee:

Augustin Gattinger was born February 3, 1825 in Munich, Germany and died July 18, 1903 in Nashville, Tennessee.  He was a botanist and medical doctor who, in 1901, published the first extensive catalog of the botany of his adopted state entitled Flora of Tennessee and Philosophy of Botany.  This book remains his greatest contribution to the study of botany in the South.

He arrived in the United States in 1849 after being dismissed from the University of Munich for participation in dissident student groupos and the celebration of George Washington’s birthday.  After spending some 15 years practicing medicine in Chattanooga and East Tennessee, his pro-Union sympathies forced him to flee to Nashville in 1864.  He served as an assistant surgeon in the United States Army and was subsequently appointed State Librarian from 1864-1869.

During his years in East and Middle Tennessee, Dr. Gattinger pursued the study of botany, using the travelling he did as a country doctor as an opportunity to amass an extensive collection of plant specimens.  He began corresponding with prominent botanists from all over the country and was able to meet many of them when they convened a meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Science in Nashville in 1877.  At this gathering he was encouraged to compile his extensive knowledge of the then unexplored botany of Tennessee into a catalog.  This small volume, The Flora of Tennessee, with Special Reference to the Flora of Nashville, was self-published in 1887 and paved the way for Dr. Gattinger’s subsequent work, Medicinal plants of Tennessee, which was published in 1894 under the auspices of the State of Tennessee Department of Agriculture.  Flora of Tennessee and Philosophy of Botany, his major work, was published in 1901.  In 1890 he donated his extensive herbarium to the University of Tennessee [Knoxville] where it remained until the building housing it burned to the ground in 1934 and all specimens were lost. (1)

Gattinger married Josephine DuRy (sister of portrait artist George DuRy) and together they had three daughters, Augusta (b. 1863), Minnie (b. 1865) and Pennie (b. 1867).

In 2003 the state of Tennessee protected Gattinger’s Cedar Glade and Barrens, a 57-acre natural area in Wilson and Rutherford Counties.  According to the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, the preserve “supports one of the largest and best-known populations of the federally endangered Tennessee purple coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis).  This pristine glade and barrens complex also supports other state rare species that include cleft phlox (Phlox bifida ssp. stellaria), evolvulus (Evolvulus pilosus), and Gattinger’s lobelia (Lobelia appendiculata var. gattingeri).  Gattinger described many cedar glades and barrens in the lat 1800’s that are presently protected as state natural areas.  He was also the first to describe Tennessee coneflower and provided location information for its occurrence.” (2)

Plants named in Gattinger’s honor include Aster gattingeri Alexander, Solidago gattingeri Chapm. ex A. Gray, Dormanna gattingeri Kuntze, Lobelia appendiculata var. gattingeri (A. Gray) McVaugh, Dalea gattingeri (A. Heller) Barneby,  Philadelphus gattingeri S. Y. Hu, Panicum gattingeri Nash, Clematis gattingeri Small, Cragaegus gattingeri Ashe, Rubus gattingeri L. H. Bailey, Agalinis gattingeri (Small) Small, and Amsonia tabernaemontana var. gattingeri Woods.


The following is an excerpt from the PREFACE of:  Gattinger, Augustin (1901) The flora of Tennessee and a philosophy of botany, respectfully dedicated to the citizens of Tennessee.  Gospel Advocate Publishing Company:  Nashville, TN.

The fifth decade of the past century proved disastrous to the patriots of Germany who were seeking liberty and progress, and no hope was left for recovery from the defeat sustained or for better success in the near future by a renewal of the struggle for liberal government.  For the first time in the history of the Bavarian capital of Munich, a meeting of discontented citizens was held, to deliberate upon joint action to secure better and safer means of emigration to the United States of North America.  Artists, professional men, mechanics, and farmers, people of good standing in society and amply provided financially, to the number of nearly two hundred, composed the meeting.
At this time an association of students of the University of Munich, of which I was a member, resolved to celebrate in a solemn fete Washington’s birthday, a proceeding never before heard of, but fully in accord with the sentiments of this part, which in these turbulent times represented the liberal movement in the university.  The celebration was a great success, and speeches and eulogies on Washington and Jefferson, Franklin and other heroes were indulged in fervently and unreservedly.
The open avowal of republican institutions was immediately denounced as a provocation, too flagrant to be allowed to be passed by, and actions were instituted by the authorities.  Several of the participants had to leave the city.  Called before the university tribunal, I was released on my pledge to emigrate.  I regret today that I have never since found an opportunity to celebrate this national festivity with the same pathos and enthusiasm as on this memorable twenty-second of February, 1849.
Severence from beloved friends and the ancestral soil is a bitter and mournful task, and recollection of it even now clouds the serenity of the moment.  But the genius of love mitigated my distress, for the one whom I had chosen for my companion [Josephine Dury, b. 1823] through the turmoils of life consented to go with me, and we joined hands at the American consulate at Havre before sailing.
These circumstances account for my appearance in Chattanooga, Tenn., in June, 1949, which place I reached by stage from Dalton, Ga., the terminus of the Georgia and South Carolina Railroad.  I was fascinated by the magnificence of the scenery; but there were but few dwellings, and these of poor construction, as might be expected in a recently-settled place.  After a short delay, a small side wheel steamer blew its whistle and brought me and my party after three days’ navigation up to Kingston, on the Clinch River.  This little town looked clean and airy, and, pleased with the friendliness of the citizens, we made it the base of operations for exploring the vicinity.  Weary of traveling and wishing to enter on the practice of my profession [medicine], I was easily fascinated by a romantic spot called “Cave Spring,” eight miles to the west of Kingston, at the time occupied by an older physician who intended to go West.  I purchased the place in partnership with my brother-in-law, the late George Dury, a Munich artist, whose exquisite paintings now adorn the State Library in the Capitol.  Unfortunately, we did not take into consideration, in making this purchase, the possible – or, rather, impossible – revenues to be derived from this possession, a circumstance which ultimately necessitated the abandonment of our farming experiment at a great sacrifice.
The transfer from a buoyant German city to this silent retreat was to me a stimulus to concentrate my attention outside professional duties and equestrian hardships to the study of the botany and geology of the country.  At my alma mater, the University of Munich, it was obligatory to pass through a course of natural sciences – chemistry, mineralogy, and botany – before being admitted to the medical department.  A two-years’ course in general and medicinal botany initiated me into the science.  Moreover, I had from earlier school years been a botanical collector, and had given a great deal of time to these studies.
After the abandonment of Cave Spring I acquired some property in Charleston, Bradley County, where I remained until I accepted, in 1858, the charge of resident surgeon at the copper mines of Ducktown, situated in the high mountains of East Tennessee, adjoining North Carolina and Georgia.  The new situation was socially very agreeable, moderately remunerative, and possessed botanically and geologically so many and so diversified points of it:  that a whole lifetime of a competent investigator could not exhaust and unravel all the problems and collect the various plants, minerals and rocks.
… Having been fifteen years in the saddle, traversing more than one-half of East Tennessee, throughout the Cumberland Mountains and all the valleys between Walden’s Ridge and Smoky Mountain, I held in my mind a well-connected panorama of the natural vista at all seasons of the year.
Possessed, as I believed myself to be, of moderate and quiet enjoyment of intelligent and useful pursuits, it came suddenly to pass that I had to bear my share of the agonies and convulsion of the Civil War.
Opposed to the disruption of the Union, knowing from experience the misery of a great nation split into petty principalities (as was the case with Germany for centuries), seeing in the growing greatness of this government the future liberation of all nationalities through its physical power and moral influence, I advocated the cause of the Union, and created such displeasure with my former friends that I found it advisable to leave my domicile and part with my family.  On a cold, starry March night, afoot, no money, with a small satchel as traveling outfit, I wound my way through the Ocoee gorge and reached the town of Cleveland, forty miles distant, without an accident.
The government in which I had put my faith and trust [took] me under its care, sent me to Nashville, and put me into service as an assistant surgeon.  After the expiration of my term and recovery from a severe malarial fever, which temporarily disabled me for army duties, I accepted from the military governor, Andrew Johnson, the position of State Librarian, which I held for five years, whereby I greatly improved my acquaintance with scientific American literature. …
It is much to be regretted that Dr. Rugel, who, about fifty years ago, resided in the vicinity of Greeneville and made valuable collections and discoveries in that vicinity and the mountains of East Tennessee and North Carolina, died without leaving a record of his work.  His collections came in the possession of Mr. Shuttleworth, of England.  Senecio rugelia Gray, Plantago rugellii Decaisne, Siphonychia rugelii Chapm. commemorate his name.
My collections were in much request for exchange, as they contained many novelties and were well prepared.  The area of Middle Tennessee was an unexplored region, botanically, and I claim the honor of being the pioneer in this field.  …
In the year 1890 my entire collection, the second largest herbarium in the South, came into the possession of the University of Tennessee, at Knoxville, and as I cannot, by my advanced years, expect to add much to its enlargement, I am happy to know it is hands under whose care it will be well preserved and utilized.*  While the pursuit of botany never brought me any financial advantages, I acknowledge that it was a mighty protector in keeping me out of the way of social corruption, and it gave me many hours of the purest enjoyment of life and brought me into friendly relations with many excellent men and women.

[*Regretably, in 1934 Morrill Hall which housed the University of Tennessee Herbarium burned to the ground and all 50,000 specimens – including Gattinger’s – were destroyed.]

1. accessed on 17 June 2011.
2. accessed on 22 October 2019
3.  SERNEC Data Portal. 2019. http// Accessed on October 22.