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Constantine Samuel Rafinesque was a quintessential nineteenth-century American scientist and naturalist. Exalted by some, cursed by others, Rafinesque gave Latin names to over 6,700 plant species, was acknowledged by Darwin for his early insights into biological variation, and is frequently mentioned in the great natural history archives. Yet he has been almost forgotten in our own day. During his long career, which included some five years as an innovative professor at Transylvania University in Kentucky, Rafinesque’s colorful and sometimes difficult personality led to troubles with his colleagues. In Constantine Samuel Rafinesque , the first full-length biography of this brilliant, original, and misunderstood naturalist, Leonard Warren presents a fair and surprising look at Rafinesque’s life and contributions to the world of science.

"Warren's easy style combined with Rafinesque's always entertaining, if not somewhat tragic, adventures make for a quick and informative read."—Academia

"A well-written book about a fascinating and misunderstood naturalist. . . . All readers interested in the people who practice science will enjoy it. Recommended."—Choice

"The reader comes away from this work satisfied that Rafinesque at last has found the biographer he deserves. . . . Will interest all those curious about science in early America"—Indiana Magazine of History

"A balanced and informative biography."—Journal of the History of Biology

"Well-organized and engagingly written-Warren has done impressive research into all of Rafinesque's endeavors: botany, zoology, ethnography, linguistics, geography."—Karen Reeds, Princeton Research Forum

"Rafinesque was plagued by the flaws of his personality, often undone by the sheer breadth and depth of his interest. . . . An engaging academic biography of a sad enigma."—Lexington Herald-Leader

"A comprehensive and readable biography of this remarkable and complex man."—Northern Kentucky Heritage

"One of the most exhilarating characters in American frontier history, a legend in scientific circles rivaled only by Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyon, Davy Crockett, or Daniel Boone in others."—Southern Seen, Clarksville (VA) News-Progress, Union City (TN) Messenger

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, Kentucky






Rafinesque, Naturalists, Transylvania University


History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

Constantine Samuel Rafinesque: A Voice in the American Wilderness
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