Agustín Stahl was a medical doctor who is known as the first renowned Puerto Rican scientist. In addition to medicine, Stahl also studied botany, ethnology, and zoology. He supported Puerto Rico's independence from Spain.
He was born January 21, 1842 in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, where he received both, his primary and secondary education. He studied at the University of Würzburg in Germany and the University of Prague (currently known as Charles University) graduating with the title of Doctor of Medicine in 1854. After Stahl graduated, he returned to Puerto Rico where he began studying medicine in the city of Bayamón.
Ethnology and biologyEdit
Outside of his work as a doctor, Stahl's interest in nature lead him to conduct investigations and experiments in botany, ethnology, and zoology. In addition to these interests, Stahl was also enjoyed history and historical investigation.
From 1883 to 1888, Stahl wrote "Estudios sobre la flora de Puerto Rico", known in English as A study of the Puerto Rican Flora in six sections. Copies of Stahl's collection of plants at an approximated 1,330 specimens can be found in several different botanical gardens around the world. His collections were the starting point for a number of studies by specialists, some of them resulting in new taxa to science.
The custom of adorning Christmas trees in Puerto Rico began in 1886 when Stahl adorned a tree in his backyard in Bayamón. The city baptized this tree "El Arbol de Navidad del Doctor Stahl", (Dr. Stahl's Christmas tree).
Stahl believed that Puerto Rico should obtain independence from Spain, and was a notable member of the "Partido Autonomista Puertorriqueño", or the Puerto Rican Autonomist Party. This group planned to create a separate political and legal identity for Puerto Rico while copying Spain in political matters. However, because of Stahl's political views, he was removed from his position in the Civil Institute of National Sciences in Spain, and was deported from the country in 1898.
He died in Bayamón on July 12, 1917, and was buried in Bayamón's Municipal Cemetery. The city transformed his former house into a museum to be enjoyed by the public who wish to learn more about him and his work. Puerto Rican sculptor, Tomás Batista created a bust in honor of Stahl, which is displayed in the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey.
Written works by Agustín Stahl include:
- Notes on Puerto Rico's Flora
- Report on the Disease of the Sugar Cane
- Puerto Rican Flora
- The Puerto Rican Indians
- The Founding of Aguadilla
- The Founding of Bayamón
He received many awards and was recognized by the Spanish Anthropological Society, the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Barcelona, and the Academy of Medical Sciences in Catalonia.