Jean-Edouard Bommer (1829-1895)

Jules-Edouard Bommer

Bommer was born in Brussels in 1829. Although he had no formal education in botany he was lucky enough to be hired at the botanic garden in 1856, probably to help director/manager Henri Galeotti. When the Société Royale d’Horticulture de Belgique, sold its botanic garden to the Belgian state (1870), Bommer was already director of the collections. In the 1860s he collaborated in the foundation of the famous Société Royale de Botanique de Belgique (1862), he became an administrator of it too, and began to write regularly in its Bulletin and in several other periodicals. His reputation was growing rapidly, even abroad, so that he became professor at the State Horticultural School in Vilvorde (1870) and head of the only departement the newborn State botanic garden counted, as well. Moreover, in 1870 he was also a temporary director of the botanic garden, in both administrative and scientific fields.

In 1871 the scientific direction was given to the board, but it was not until 1875 that the administrative direction went to Edouard Dupont, while Barthélemy Dumortier took the scientific one. From that moment to his death (1895) Bommer kept the job of Head of Departement.

From day one in the State botanic garden, Bommer proved very enthusiastic about developing the botanic garden’s scientific collections. But he soon faced several problems with assistants subdued to Dumortier. Was it because he had become Professor of Botany at the masonic/liberal University of Brussels (1872), something that Dumortier could not stand because he was himself a catholic politician? Anyhow, the chairman of the board did his best to hinder Bommer’s management. When Dumortier died (1878) things went better, under the direction of François Crépin. Bommer was involved in both administration and scientific activities in his university, an officer of the Société Royale de Botanique de Belgique, co-founder of the Société Belge de Microscopie, in charge of all the scientific collections in the State botanic garden (both herbaria and living collections), it did not leave him too much time to finish his studies on ferns. Which where eventually published after his death.

by Dr. Denis Diagre

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