Horace-Bénédict de Saussure

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Horace Bénédict de Saussure
Horace Benedict de Saussure Monument in Chamonix (1899)
Horace Benedict de Saussure Monument in Chamonix (2012)

Horace Bénédict de Saussure (born February 17, 1740 in Conches , † January 22, 1799 ibid) was a Geneva naturalist. Its official botanical author's abbreviation is “ Sauss. “He is the father of Nicolas Théodore de Saussure , grandfather of Henri de Saussure and great-grandfather of the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure .

life and work

Saussure received support from his father, Nicolas de Saussure, his uncle Charles Bonnet , the naturalist and poet Albrecht von Haller and the doctor Théodore Tronchin . From 1757 he studied natural sciences at the Geneva Academy , where he received his doctorate in 1759. phil. received his doctorate. In 1762, at the age of 22, he was appointed professor of philosophy at the Geneva Academy.

His services to geology , of which he is to be counted among the founders, to the physics of the atmosphere and related sciences are recognized. He provided remarkable plant anatomical work. The Glaciology owes him its foundations.

He traveled to France , Italy , Sicily and explored the western Alps, especially the Chamonix massif . In 1760 he spent a significant amount of money exploring an ascent route to Mont Blanc . In 1787, a year after the first ascent of Mont Blanc, he carried out the first scientific ascent of this mountain "in the company of a servant and 18 guides". At the summit he made geological observations and comparative barometric and thermometric measurements. These measurements showed on August 3, 1787 that Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Europe.

He invented an electrometer and improved the hygrometer and similar instruments. One of the strangest is the cyanometer (Greek) he developed, an instrument for measuring the intensity of the blue sky. Alexander von Humboldt , among others, used these instruments on his American expeditions.

As the founder and president of the Society of the Arts, he made great contributions to Geneva’s factories.

Through research in the fields of meteorology , geology, mineralogy , glaciology, magnetism and electricity , he considerably expanded his knowledge of these during his time. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer mentions the natural scientist in his dissertation on the fourfold root of the sentence of sufficient reason : "SAUSSÜRE is said to have seen the rising moon from Mont Blanc so big that he did not recognize it and passed out from shock."

Saussure is considered the father of modern Alpine research . Of his writings, his Voyages dans les Alpes should be emphasized. As the first to climb the Kleiner Matterhorn , Horace Bénédict de Saussure was also a pioneer of alpinism .

In the later years of his life he participated in the new legislation of his fatherland and was a member of the Council of Two Hundred .

In 1787 he became a corresponding and in 1791 a foreign member ( associé étranger ) of the Académie des sciences . From 1788 he was a Fellow of the Royal Society .

Honors and appreciation


  • Observations on l'écorce des feuilles et des pétales. 102 pp., Geneva 1762
  • Voyages in the Alps. , Geneva 1779–96 (4 volumes).
  • Essais sur L'Hygrométrie. 542 p., Samuel Fauche Pere Et Fils, Neuchatel 1783. Experiment on hygrometry , translated by Johann Daniel Titius, Leipzig, 1784.
  • Relation abrégée d'un voyage à la Cime du Mont-Blanc: en août 1787. 38 p., Barde & Manget Geneva 1787.
  • German version: Short report from a trip to the summit of Montblanc, in August 1787 , Akademische Buchhandlung, Strasburg 1788. 40 pages. Facsimile Fines Mundi Verlag, Saarbrücken 2008.
  • Défense de l'Hygromètre à cheveu. 82 p., Geneva 1788
  • Description of the deux nouvelles espèces de trémelles douées d'un mouvement spontané. Journal de Physique, Vol. 37, pp. 401-409, 1790
  • Manuscrits et publications de Horace-Bénédict de Saussure sur l'origine du basalte. Compilation by Albert V. Carozzi, 769 pp., Éditions Zoé, Geneva 2000. ISBN 2-88182-411-0


  • Jo Krummacher : The idea of ​​the little beings that crawl around on the surface of this sphere. Canarian approaches to Horace Bénédict de Saussure. Essay. In: The plateau. 24 (1994)
  • René Sigrist, Le capteur solaire de Horace-Bénédict de Saussure. Genèse d'une science empirique , Genève, Passé-Présent / Jullien, 1993.
  • René Sigrist (éd.), H.-B. de Saussure (1740-1799). Un regard sur la Terre , Genève, Georg, 2001.
  • Stéphane Fischer: Horace-Bénédict de Saussure. Naturaliste des Alpes . Switzerland. Jugendschriftenwerk, 2014, ISBN 978-3-7269-0662-7 .

Web links

Commons : Horace Bénédict de Saussure  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Horace Bénédict de Saussure  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Link to a cyanometer image
  2. ^ List of members since 1666: Letter S. Académie des sciences, accessed on February 25, 2020 (French).
  3. ^ Entry on Saussure, Horace Benedict de (1740 - 1799) in the archive of the Royal Society , London
  4. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names - Extended Edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .