1902 Encyclopedia > François Huber

François Huber
Swiss naturalist

FRANÇOIS HUBER, (1750-1831), an eminent Swiss naturalist, especially distinguished by the originality and reach of his researches into the life history of the honey-bee, was born at Geneva, July 2,1750. He belonged to a family which had already made its mark in the literary and scientific world : his great-aunt, Marie Huber (1695-1753), was known as a voluminous writer on religious and theological subjects, and as the translator and epitomizer of The Spectator (Redaction du Spectateur Anglais à ce qu'il renferme de meilleur, Amst., 3 vols. 1753) ; and his father Jean Hubei (1721-1786), who had served for many years as a soldier, was a prominent member of the coterie at Ferney, distin-guishing himself both by the rare skill with which he could reproduce the likeness of Voltaire by clipping paper and by other unpromising devices, and by the publication of a valuable series of Observations sur le vol des oiseaux (Geneva, 1784). From an early age François Huber displayed a dangerous ardour for study ; and he was only fifteen years old when he began, in consequence of his ill-judged assiduity, to suffer from an affection of the eyes which gradually resulted in total blindness. Happily at once for his comfort and his fame he had secured the affection of Marie Aimée Lullin. Having patiently waited till she was legally of age, she married the husband of her choice, and ministered to his wants till her death with such unceasing devotion that it was only, he said, when he lost her that he really felt he was blind. For many years her efforts were seconded by François Burnens, a servant, whom Huber had inspired with something of his own love of nature. The results of the investigations which were conducted by this happily assorted trio, at once surprised and delighted the world. So skilfully did the blind man devise his experiments, and so carefully did his assistants conduct and register their observations, that the work Nouvelles Observations sur les abeilles (Geneva, 1792 ; Paris, 1796 ; new ed., Paris, 1814; English translation, Edinburgh, 1806 and 1821) laid the foundation of all our scientific knowledge of the subject. Huber assisted Senebier in his M'em. sur l'influence de l'air, &c, dans la germination (Geneva, 1800); and we also have from his pen " Mém. sur l'origine de la cire " (Bibliothèque Britannique, tome xxv. ), a " Lettre à M. Pictet sur certains dangers que courent les abeilles " (Bib, Brit, xxvii.), and " Nouvelles observ. rel. au sphinx Atropos" (Bib. Brit., xxvii.). He died at the age of eighty-one, December 22, 1831. De Candolle gave his name to a genus of Brazilian trees—Huberia laurina. Pierre Huber (1777-1840) followed in his father's footsteps. His best known work is Recherches sur les mœurs des fourmis indigènes (Geneva and Paris, 1810; new ed., Geneva, 1861), but he also contributed papers on various ento-mological subjects to several scientific periodicals.

See the account of François Huber by De Candolle in Bill. Universelle, 1832; and the notice of Pierrein Bill. Univ., 1866; also Haag, La Franca Protestante.

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