B bábi, Tibor

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Benkő, József (Joseph) (középajtai és árkosi) (Bardóc, 20 December 1740 - Középajta, now Ajta Medie, Romania, 28 December 1814) – Minister of the Reformed Church, historiographer, natural scientist. He was a student of Nagyenyed (now Aiud, Romania) Reformed College, became Minister in Középajta, later Professor at the College of Székelyudvarhely (now Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania). He established three botanical gardens on his estate at Középajta, containing 600 species of plants that are considered to be the very first botanical gardens in Transylvania (Erdély, now in Romania). He occupied an important place amongst scientists of Transylvania, visiting all areas of Erdővidék, his homeland, and his descriptions of the flora of Transylvania’s various regions were a pioneering work. His scientific career embraced history, linguistics and the natural sciences. Contrary to the unscientific methods of many authors whose works were published throughout Europe during the latter part of his century, he was a strict adherent to direct observation. Unfortunately, his most important work, the Flora Transsilvanica, the very first phytogeographical opus on Transylvania remained an unfinished manuscript. In his honor, foreign scientists named one of the plants he described Epilobilum benkőianum. In his research work he included missing species of plants and is thereby regarded as a precursor of biogeography. In his Filus Postumus he was the first to include data on the population of Erdővidék, demonstrating the demographics of this regional unit. There is no lack of geographical data either in his main opus Trassilvania sive Magnus Transsilvaniae Principatus, published in 1777-1778. He was the first to systematize the loan words in the Hungarian language in the publication. In the parts dealing with the areas of Maros, Szamos and Olt Rivers, he lists settlements, lakes and tarns (lacustrine mountain lakes) and writes also about the mineral water sources. This work belongs to the best descriptive works about Transylvania. He was the first to publish an all-inclusive work about the caves of Transylvania, called Imago Specuum Transilvae. It was published in Haarlem, the Netherlands in 1781. A large number of his historical studies, collections of source materials and botanical monographs remained in manuscript form. His life’s work brought history writing of Transylvania to a level of the quality equal to that of the rest of Europe. – B: 0883, 1257, T: 7675.

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