Bonaparte, Charles Lucian, 1803-1857

Alternative names
Birth 1803-05-24
Death 1857-07-29
French, English, Italian, German

Biographical notes:

Charles Lucian Bonaparte was a naturalist and ornithologist.

From the description of Correspondence, 1824-1855, from American scientists. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 173465723

From the description of Letters, 1825-1857. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 122316342

From the guide to the Correspondence, 1824-1855, from American scientists, 1824-1855, (American Philosophical Society)

Scientist; author of American Ornithology and other works on natural history.

From the description of Charles Lucian Bonaparte letters : Paris, 1856-1857. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82496863

From the description of Charles Lucian Bonaparte letters : Paris, 1856-1857. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702148262

Ornithologist; b. Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte, prince of Canino and Musignano.

From the description of Letter, 1825 Dec. 5. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70944747

Naturalist; nephew of Napoleon I.

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Rome, to Mr. Prince, agent of John Gould, 1841 Feb. 27. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270527372

French naturalist and ornithologist.

From the description of Letter, 1825 Dec. 5. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70975347

Bonaparte, Charles Lucien, Prince of Canino (1803-1857, APS, 1824). Charles Lucien Bonaparte, French naturalist and ornithologist, was a nephew of the Emperor Napoleon, the son of the Emperor’s younger brother Lucien.

Charles Lucien Bonaparte, was raised in Italy and shared his father Lucien’s republican political values. He received an extensive scientific education in Italian universities. In 1822 at the age of nineteen he married his cousin Zenaida-Charlotte-Julie, daughter of Joseph, king of Naples and Spain, and brought her to live in the United States for six years. The couple had twelve children.

Before the age of twenty he discovered a warbler, then unknown to science. And would make his greatest contributions to zoology, even though he had begun his scientific career with several essays in botany. While in the United States Bonaparte published numerous ornithological notes in the Journal of the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences. He continued Alexander Wilson’s work on birds, updating the latter’s American Ornithology. He also sponsored the then unknown John James Audobon for membership in the Academy of Natural Science in 1824, although Audobon was not elected.

Returning to Europe in 1828 at the age of 25, Bonaparte settled in Italy and began a period of major political activity. He advocated for the organization of scientific congresses that also provided an opportunity for meetings of independents and reformers. After the accession of the initially liberal Pope Pius IX in 1846, Bonaparte became a member of the Pope’s party, but proceeded to move in a more radical direction, affiliating with the radicals and joining the Supreme Junta that seized power in the Roman states during the Revolutions of 1848. After the flight of Pope Pius in November 1848, Charles Lucien became deputy for Viterbo in the Assemblée Nationale Romaine; he was eventually elected Vice-President of the Assemblée. He also served on a commission to draft a constitution for the Roman Republic. When his cousin Louis Napoleon sent French troops to restore the Pope, Bonaparte participated in the defense of Rome with the Republican army. After its defeat and the fall of the Roman Republic, he fled with his family back to France, first to Marseilles and then Orléans, where he was arrested and released. Louis Napoleon ordered him out of the county and he set sail from Le Havre for England.

While in England, Bonaparte attended the 1849 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Birmingham, then visited the Scottish ornithologist Sir William Jardine. During his sojourn in England Bonaparte started work on a classification of every bird in the world, visiting museums across Europe to study their collections. The following year, 1851, he was allowed to return to France, where he and his family settled in Paris. At this point he gave up politics and concentrated exclusively on his scientific endeavors.

Bonaparte became interested in the principles of biological classification as early as 1831. In his early work he departed from the concepts of Georges Cuvier, of whom he was quite critical. He classified Insectivora before the Rodentia and separated the Chiroptera from the Primates. He made use of location, structure and the relationships of the branchiae in his classification of fish. Also, in developing classifications, he considered physiological data and morphology. Consequently, he raised the Batrachia to a subclass, then united the saurians and ophidians (Reptilia). He devoted the final years of his life to establishing a definitive classification of zoological groups, publishing synopses, conspectuses, and catalogs of the fauna of France. To this end, he not only encouraged fellow zoologists to study local fauna, but in 1857 conceived a general work in collaboration with Victor Meunier on the fauna of France entitled Histoire naturelle generale et particuliere des animaux qui vivent en France. Bonaparte’s death later that year prevented the realization of the project.

Charles Lucien Bonaparte was deeply interested in the French Muséum d’histoire naturelle and hoped to see the addition of a special gallery for native fauna. He bequeathed his library, containing works on the natural sciences, meterology, history and politics, as well as his extensive correspondence, to the Muséum.

From the guide to the Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte letters, 1825-1857, 1825-1857, (American Philosophical Society)


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  • Ornithology
  • Birds--Research
  • Birds
  • Zoological specimens
  • Science and technology
  • Natural history
  • Learned institutions and societies
  • Ornithologists--Correspondence
  • Literature, Arts, and Culture
  • Science--Societies, etc
  • Zoology


  • Ornithologists
  • Scientists


  • Point Breeze (Philadelphia, Pa.) (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)
  • Point Breeze (Philadelphia, Pa.) (as recorded)