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  Nikolaus Thomas Host
1761 - 1834

Nikolaus Thomas Host, botanist and physician, was born in Fiume (Rijeka, Croatia) on December 6, 1761. He studied at the University of Vienna, graduated with a degree in medicine, and eventually became the personal physician to Francis I, Emperor of Austria. As a young man, Host made a number of botanizing expeditions, usually in the company of his close friend, the botanist Joseph von Jacquin (1766-1839), the son of the famous “Austrian Linnaeus”--Nikolaus Joseph Jacquin (1727-1817). Their travels took them to many parts of Austria, including Illyria and the Tyrol, and beyond to Hungary and Croatia. Some of the collections made on these expeditions were incorporated in the Garden for Austrian Plants established by Francis I in 1793. Host became the first director of this garden which was located at the Belvedere palaces in Vienna. Host’s name was given to the East Asian genus, Hosta Tratt., by the Austrian botanist, Leopold Trattinnick (1764-1849).

Four years after the Garden was founded, Host published his Synopsis plantarum in Austria which described a number of new species, and it was followed by his major work, the four volume Icones et descriptions graminum austriacorum, published in the years 1801-1809. This magnificent book on the grasses of Central Europe was illustrated by the artist Johann Ibmayer and was dedicated to the Emperor. Two other publications of Host are of significance in botanical literature. These were Salix (1828), a volume on the willows of the Austrian provinces, and Flora austriaca, two volumes (1827-1831). Of particular importance in the latter work were the descriptions of little-known plants from Istria and Dalmatia. In both of these later works, the illustrations are from the water color paintings of Ibmayer which became part of the Emperor’s personal library.


Helmut Dolezal, Friedrich Welwitsch, vida e obra. 1974.
F. Hausmann, Flora von Tirol. v. 3:1180-1181. 1854.
A.Neilreich, “Nikolaus Thomas Host”. Verhandlungen des Zoologisch-botanischen Vereins in Wien. v. 5:35-36. 1855.

Robert F. Erickson

Digitized Works:
Icones et descriptiones Graminum austriacorumauthor
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