Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Born in Paris, France, on 15 June 1846 and was assassinated in the late evening of 28 thermidor of the eighth year of the French Revolution (16 August 1800). The murder was never solved.
He came from a rather wealthy Catholic family which belonged to court circles. Apparently they had sufficient influence in the right quarters, because in 1772 he was appointed Procureur du roi a Ia maitrise des eaux et des forets de Ia généralité de Paris (Superintendent of Waters and Forests of the Paris region). This position was predominantly administrative and eminently suited to be enjoyed as a sinecure but, although with little knowledge of the job initially, L’Héritier undertook it seriously and gained the knowledge to handle the work efficiently. He had held a position as magistrate under the old regime and was considered straightforward and honest; he eagerly adopted the principles of the French Revolution and also held a position as magistrate under the new regime. As a judge he was well- known for not betraying human emotions and adopting a strict and almost impersonal correctitude.
L’Héritier, starting as an amateur and becoming a self-made scientist, found his way to the highest ranks of the French Academy. As a botanist he was a more ardent Linnaean than Linnaeus, not at all philosophically inclined but greatly attracted by the ever unfolding variety of nature and primarily concerned with classification rather than understanding. He also wrote Stirpes Novae Aut Minus Cognitae, which was a detailed classification for exotic plants and he left in manuscript form material for a Flora of Peru, based on notes and the herbarium of Dombey.
His name is commemorated in the genus Heritiera (now Argyrodendron), represented by several valuable forest trees (tulip oaks) of Queensland rainforest.
L’Héritier is a name which should be well known in Australia, since it was he who described the genus Eucalyptus from specimens collected at Adventure Bay, Tas., during Cook’s Third Expedition, and gave us the first species — E. obliqua. This was published in Sertum Anglicum, seu plantae rariores quae in hortis juxta Londinum imprimis in horto regio Kewensi excoluntur, ab anno 1786-87 observatae, printed in Paris in 1788. He was in England in 1786-87 and studied the Kew collections.