Birthday: May 31, 1852
Died At Age: 67
Sun Sign: Gemini
Born in: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Famous as: Naturalist, Explorer, Anthropologist, Geographer
Spouse/Ex-: María Ana Varela (m. 1885)
father: Francisco Moreno
mother: Juana Thwaites Madero
siblings: Edward Moreno, Joshua Moreno, Juana Moreno, Molly Moreno
children: Florencio Moreno
Died on: November 22, 1919
place of death: Buenos Aires, Argentina
City: Buenos Aires, Argentina
awards: Founder's Gold Medal
Who was Francisco Moreno?
Francisco Moreno was a prominent Argentine naturalist, explorer, and geographer in the late 19th century. Counted amongst the first anthropologists of Argentina, he was appointed by the Argentine government to act as an expert (perito) in the border conflict between Argentina and Chile. He was an advocate for the region’s colonization and played a vital role in the Argentine incorporation of large parts of Patagonia and its subsequent development. Born into a traditional patrician family in Buenos Aires, he started collecting artifacts and fossils as a young boy, and created a homemade museum of his extensive collections when he was 14. Due to his family connections he was able to become a part of Argentina’s learned societies and political networks which greatly helped him in his future career. The first of the series of scientific expeditions he embarked on was a survey of Río Negro Territory. Over the ensuing years he made many other expeditions and spent several years in Europe. The adventurous young man also faced many life-threatening ordeals during his travels to savage territories but nothing could dampen his love for exploration. In his later years, he became more involved in politics and public education, and also founded the La Plata Museum of Natural History, the most important of its kind in South America.
Childhood & Early Life
Francisco Pascasio Moreno was born on May 31, 1852, in Buenos Aires, to Francisco and Juana Thwaites Madero. His family was an influential one and his father was one of the founding members of the influential Club del Progreso, secretary of the Buenos Aires Commerce Stock Market, director of the Buenos Aires Province Bank, and member of the Argentine parliament.
Francisco Moreno was interested in collecting artifacts and fossils from a young age and created a homemade museum of his extensive collections when he was 14. He studied in local parochial schools and graduated in 1872. He did not attend university and began working in the family’s insurance companies.
Due to his family’s connections, he became part of Argentina’s learned societies and political networks and participated in the founding of the Argentine Scientific Society in 1872.
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Francisco Moreno embarked on a series of explorations in the 1870s. The first one of these was a survey of Río Negro Territory, a hitherto largely uncharted territory. He explored the valleys of Patagonia and the Argentinean Northwest, and reached Lake Nahuel-Huapi in the southern Andes in 1876.
He collected objects of natural history and archeological interest in his travels. In February 1877, he discovered Lake San Martín and explored numerous rivers in Patagonia. In March the same year, he discovered and named Mount Fitz Roy.
On his return, he presented his collections to the Province of Buenos Aires for the purpose of establishing an archaeological and anthropological museum. The museum was inaugurated in August 1878.
He visited France in 1880 where he spoke at a meeting of the Anthropology Society of Paris. He had unearthed two prehistoric skulls in the Rio Negro territory and discussed their possible origins at the meeting. He believed one skull was from the Quaternary period while the other bore marks of ritual deformation in a manner similar to the skulls of the Aymara people of the Andes and Altiplano.
Soon after returning to Argentina, he embarked on his second major expedition to the territory of Patagonia. He explored the Lake Nahuel along with his team when they were taken prisoners by a Tehuelche aboriginal tribe. He was condemned to death but he made a daring escape barely a day before his planned execution.
Even the near-death experience could not dampen Moreno’s adventurous spirit and he proceeded to explore the Andes from Bolivia southward in 1882-83, and made new explorations of the territory south of the Río Negro and of Patagonia in 1884-85.
In 1888, he founded the La Plata Museum of Natural History, which is today the most important of its kind in South America and one of the most important museums in the world. His vast collection of artifacts which are housed in the museum is credited to have played a significant role in contributing to the national mythology. Moreno served as the first director of the museum until 1906.
In 1902, Moreno was appointed Perito (a technical specialist or expert) in the border conflict with Chile. In this position he disproved Chilean claims to the continental divide in the Southern Cone.
He served as the national deputy from 1910–1913. In this capacity he proposed several projects including the construction of railroads in Patagonia, the creation of a national scientific service (for topographic, hydrographical, geologic, and biological surveys), and the establishment of national parks.
During his later years he acted as vice president of National Council for Education and established the Scouting and Guiding in Argentina, the Argentine Boy Scouts Association, in 1912. He was also actively involved in political developments and joined the reactionary Argentine Patriotic League during the World War I.
In 1888, Francisco Moreno founded the La Plata Museum, a natural history museum in La Plata, Argentina, which is counted amongst the most important of its kind in the world. It receives around 400,000 visitors every year, including a thousand visiting researchers.
Awards & Achievements
Moreno received an honorary doctorate from the University of Córdoba in 1877.
He received the Royal Geographical Society Founder’s Medal in 1907 for extensive explorations in the Patagonian Andes.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married María Ana Varela in 1885 and raised a family with her.
He died on November 22, 1919, in Buenos Aires, at the age of 67.