Saturday, August 22, 2009

Second Fiddle

Not many people will recognize the serious faced fellow above, and hearing his name which is Aime Bonpland will not set off too many bells of recognition either. Born in La Rochelle, France on this day in 1773, M. Bonpland will be forever known, if he is ever really known at all, as the guy who accompanied the far more famous, and more remember Alexander von Humboldt on his five year exploration of Latin America. I guess somebody has to get the great man in the right spot to take the prefect picture, and perhaps Bonpland was just a plugger. Not as bright a star as von Humboldt, or maybe not as good at selling himself. Perhaps he was just not as bright, or as energetic, or as worthy of the greater fame that will be forever given to von Humboldt. He did manage to collect and classify nearly 60,000 plants that were, at the time, unknown in Europe, and he has achieved some repute for that, but the star of the show was von Humboldt. Perhaps that "von" in his name made all the difference, after all it means he is from the upper crust, and the world loves an upper crust hero. Bonpland did manage to get a few animals and plants named in his honour, a lunar crater named for him, and a peak in Andes is graced with his name, but all in all he was clearly the second fiddle to von Humboldt. He even managed to get himself arrested in Bolivia in 1821, and be detained for about a decade. I guess someone has to be second fiddle, after all the limelight or spotlight is only so big, and one star on the stage is more than enough. Someone has to be waiting in the wings to feed the star the lines. Not the greatest role in the world, but it beats being the slugs that probably had to carry all that heavy scientific gear these two bastards carted all over South America. So for showing us that second fiddle is better than having to clean the orchestra pit after the show is over, Aime Bonpland (August 22nd 1773-May 4 1858), you are my hero of the day.

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