Fabricius, Otto (1744-1822)

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Otto Fabricius (1744-1822)

Otto Fabricius (1744-1822)

Otto Fabricius was born in the year 1744, though the exact date and location is obscure.

He was sent to Greenland in 1768, and remained there five years. In that time he amassed a huge store of collections, and took encyclopedic notes of his observations, under conditions that were, in practically all respects, quite primitive.

He lived in a crude structure constructed by the Inuit natives of turf. This home was also his laboratory, but its instruments consisted of nothing but a few magnifying glasses, an oil lamp, and a single book, Systema Naturæ, in which the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus had begun to establish his exposition on taxonomical nomenclature. The year prior to his departure for Greenland, the book was republished in two volumes, but it seems likely that Fabricius was possessed of an earlier, one volume edition, the last of which were published twelve years earlier, in 1756.

On his return to Denmark, Fabricius assembled his collections and notes, using them to prepare an extraordinary account of his discoveries. This book, entitled Fauna Groenlandica, was published in 1780, and included descriptions of 473 animals, 130 of them being species never before described. His descriptions were unusually detailed, with notes on habitat, behavior, the name applied to them by the Inuit natives, if the natives trap or hunt them, and what uses the natives made of the animal.

Whether and how deeply Otto Fabricius continued in his work as a naturalist beyond 1756 is obscure. He is sometimes confused with Johan Christian Fabricus (1745-1808), whose work as a student of Carl Linnaeus made him one of the most important entomologists of the 18th century.

Otto Fabricius died in 1822, though the exact date and place are unknown.

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