Hugo de Vries: life and work
Acta botanica neerlandica , Volume 47 - Issue 4 p. 409- 418
Hugo de Vries was born in Haarlem on 16 February, 1848. He came from a wealthy academic family and grew up in a cultural and scientific environment. Among his ancestors and relatives we find several that acquired a place in Dutch history by their activities in the realms of art and sciences. Hugo’s father, Gerrit de Vries, had settled in Haarlem as an attorney in 1840. In 1850 Gerrit became a member of the Provinciale Staten (Provincial Council) of North-Holland, some years later of the Gedeputeerde Staten (Deputive Council) of that province. In 1862 he was appointed as a member of the Raad van State (State Advisory Council) in The Hague, a position he held untill his retirement. From 1872 to 1874, moreover, he was Minister of Justice. Hugo’s mother was a daughter of the Leyden professor of archaeology Caspar Reuvens. As a child, De Vries became interested in nature. After school hours and during holidays he made long walks through the dunes and meadows, collecting plants and trying to find their names. In 1860, at the age of 12, he brought in a herbarium of 100 plants for an exhibition organized by the Hollandsche Maatschappij van Landbouw (Dutch Agricultural Society). When he reached the age of 15 De Vries also began to make microscopic observations. In 1866 he entered the University of Leyden to read philosophia naturalis (natural philosophy), with botany as his principal subject. His parents were not pleased with their son’s choice, in view of the limited prospects the discipline offered. At that time, the only job that was open to a professional botanist was a teacher of natural history at secondary school. Reluctantly they conceded, but when they saw how eagerly and dilligently young Hugo studied, they understood that their son had made the right decision.
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