François Crépin (1830-1903)
François Crépin is born in Rochefort in a middle class family. A primary school teacher in his region kindles and stimulates his taste for botany. Convinced that his destiny is in science, he starts, from the 1850s onwards, to work on something that was still sorely missing: a reliable flora for Belgium. He contacts dozens of local botanists and guides their plant collections to have both plants and data for his project. Thanks to this first network he can publish his famous Manuel de la Flore de Belgique in 1860. This work becomes a corner stone of Belgian floristics and is met with respect in other countries. The famous “Belgian herbarium” of Crépin becomes part of the collections of the State Botanical Garden (today the Botanical Garden Meise) a few years later.
The “Flore de Belgique” allows the self-taught Crépin to start a career as a professional botanist. And indeed, from 1861 onwards he gives the botany courses at the State horticultural school in Gentbrugge. During that decennium he starts a project which (he will have thought) will ensure his interational reputation: the monography of the genus Rosa, a group that is notoriously complex. For tens of years, supported by a second network, which reaches into all the corners of the world where roses grow, he studies his Rosa herbarium specimens en publishes the results of his research. Although considered by some as the greatest rose specialists of his age, he fails to complete his monographie. His Rosa herbarium, without a doubt the biggest collection in the world dedicated to this genus, will also be left to the State Botanical Garden.
It is not surprising that from 1876 Crépin is director of the Garden, which is founded in 1870. It is also from the Garden that he guards the scientific standard of the Bulletin de la Société royale de Botanique de Belgique, of which he was one of the founding members in 1862 and for a long time the general secretary or the secretary of publications. He publishes a large number of articles on floristics and later on roses. He was the living image of the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium.
The Crépin award was founded in 1891 by the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium to commemorate the 25 years that the botanist from Rochefort had spent as its secretary. The triennial prize had to be awarded for “botanical work or encourage serious efforts" (Bulletin, 1892). Emile De Wildeman was the first laureate of the award, in 1895.
Text: Denis Diagre-Vanderpelen
Translation: Renate Wesselingh
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