Born in Mont-de-Marsan, France, on April 22, 1849, Paul Camboué studied in Bordeaux in a middle school run by the Jesuits of Tivoli. He received his baccalaureate in science at age sixteen, and only three years later he was taking the oath as a lawyer in the appellate court in Paris, having obtained his Law degree. He served in the war of 1870 as a lieutenant. In October of 1872, he knocked at the door of the novitiate of the Jesuits of Toulouse, and two years later, on November 10, 1882, he arrived in the country that he would dedicate forty-seven years of his life to, which was Madagascar. Even the few years he spent in Paris toward the end of the nineteenth century were spent in service to the great island, either as a procurer for the Catholic Mission in Antananarivo, or as the tenured Malagasy chair at the Catholic Institute in Paris.
Camboué was prolific, and produced a variety of written works. He was a “bush missionary” who largely worked west of the capitol, in Arivonimamo and Ambohibeloma. He related his concerns to others in a steady stream of correspondence, and many of his letters were published in missionary journals of that time. He was also interested in studying Malagasy behavior and morals, customs, and art. However, his renown came largely through his accomplishments in the field of natural science, principally in the study of invertebrates.
On November 12, 1903, he became an associate member of the Malagasy Academy, and on June 29, 1927, titular member. He was also a correspondent member of the Académie des Sciences, in Paris. His scientific work was recognized with several awards: in 1870, the Savigny prize; a bit later, the Duseigneur-Kléber prize of the Lyons Chamber of Commerce, and on December 22, 1924, the Saintour prize of the Académie des Sciences.
Alfred Grandidier’s report to the Académie des Sciences, prepared for the awarding of the Savigny prize, is probably the best available overview of his scientific work. Here is an excerpt:
The Reverend Father Camboué, a missionary in Madagascar for some eight years now, has been engaged in the zealous study of the invertebrate animals of the great island. He has dedicated all of the time available to him outside of his religious work to this task. He also had the wonderful idea of undertaking to establish a museum of natural science in Antananarivo. The present museum is still quite modest, but it has already been called upon to serve the needs of science.
Father Camboué has published interesting studies on the sericeous Bombycidae and the Acaridae of Madagascar, as well as on the useful and harmful spiders found there. He also discovered many new species in the various orders of the class of insects.
The ant fauna of Madagascar, which is known today to number more than one hundred species or races, is of particular interest. Camboué gathered a significant collection of those insects in their various states, and the collection has shed new light on the field of myrmecology.
Some of the many Hymenoptera that he sent are quite remarkable and reveal the existence of families that were unknown until then in Madagascar.
His collection of Coleoptera, in which each insect is given an indigenous name, is of particular interest for entomologists.
In addition to several newly discovered butterflies, we are also indebted to him for a description of the caterpillar and the chrysalis of the magnificent urania ripheus, which has finally led to some definitive clarity about some of its affinities.
Furthermore, Camboué’s studies have not been limited to invertebrate animals. He also discovered several new plants, and his studies of the Malagasy vine [or vineyard] are of genuine interest. In short, Father Camboué’s efforts are worthy of praise and encouragement…
Also, the reports of Mr. Bouvier for the Saintour prize, and of Mr. Dusuzeau for the Duseigneur-Kléber prize underline the practical side of Camboué’s research. Mr. Roland Legendre, in a 1967 note in the Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, felt confident enough to call him the top arachnologist in Madagascar.
His writing on ethnology is also not without interest, in particular the work that draws attention to the sculptural art of Madagascar.
J. L. Peter s. j.
A. On Paul Camboué:
“Le Père Paul Camboué (1849-1929)” in La Mission de Madagascar, vicariat de Tananarive [The Madagascar Mission, Tananarivo Vicariate], Paris, 79, avenue de Breteuil, no. 28, dec. 1929, pp. 231 to 233.
“R. P. Paul Camboué” in Ny Feon’ny Marina. Antananarivo, imprimerie catholique, 1929, no. 12 of June 15, pp. 191-192.
“Le Révérend Père Paul Camboué” in Le Messager du Cœur de Jésus. Antananarivo: imprimerie catholique, juillet 1929, pp. 136 à 140.
Roland Legendre, “Le Révérend Père Paul Camboué (1848-1929) arachnologue.” Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache. Antananarivo : imprimerie nationale, 1968 vol. XLV-2 (1967), pp. 11-12.
B. The Writings of Paul Camboué:
Attention: Note number A. 4 above refers to Roland Legendre’s work, which has a bibliography. We refer readers to that bibliography, but draw attention to the following errors it contains:
In no. 13, the title should read “Psychic” instead of “Psyche.”
In no. 19, there is an error in the reference. The article in question appeared in a 1928 issue of Anthropos, vol. 23, pp. 1 to 17.
In no. 22, this same article also appeared in a publication in Moscow.
In no. 24, this note is not published by the Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, but is only referred to in abridged form in the report on the February meeting.
Legendre’s bibliography can be completed by continuing it here beginning with no. 27, since his bibliography is numbered from 1 to 26.
- 27 (1885). “Bombyciens sérigènes de Madagascar” [Sericeous Bombycidae of Madagascar], Bulletin mensuel de la société nationale d’acclimatation de France (Monthly bulletin of the national acclimatization society of France), June 1885 (8 p.).
28 (1886). “Les sauterelles à Madagascar sur le riz malgache” [Madagascar Grasshoppers on Malagasy Rice], ibid., March 1886 (5 p.).
29 (1888). “Sur les services rendus à l’acclimatation par les RR PP missionnaires de la Compagnie de Jésus” [On the services rendered to acclimatization by the Jesuit Fathers], ibid., Feb. 1888 (4 p.).
30 (1889). “L’Urania ripheus BDV. Quelques notes sur ses états imparfaits ou larvaire” [Urania Ripheus BDV. [Notes on the larval or imperfect stages] Revue des sciences naturelles appliquées (Journal of applied natural science) No. 9, May 5 1889 (3 p.).
31 (1891). P. Camboué s.j. “Causerie scientifique: coutumes juives à Madagascar” [A scientific talk: Jewish customs in Madagascar], La revue générale. Dec. 1891, pp. 921 to 934.
32 (1892). “Variétés. Notes sur Madagascar.” Revue des questions scientifique (Journal for scientific questions), 2nd series, vol. III, Oct. 1892, pp. 669 to 676.
33 (1893). “Variétés. Notes sur Madagascar.” Ibid., 1893, pp. 342 to 347.
34 (1893). “La vigne à Madagascar” [Vine/Vineyards in Madagascar] Revue des sciences naturelles appliquées,(see no. 30 above)) no. 12, June 20, 1893 (7 p.).
35 (1894). “A Madagascar.” Bulletin de la société de géographie commerciale de Bordeaux [Bulletin of the commercial geography society of Bordeaux), Oct. 1, 1894, pp. 549 to 551.
36 (1897). Speech given at the inaugural session of the course on Malagasy at the Catholic Institute, Paris, January 21, 1897. Brochure, 27 pages. Paris: Librairie africaine et coloniale Joseph André et Cie.
37 (1903). Un apôtre de Madagascar. Le Père Louis Laboucarie, de la Compagnie de Jésus (1837-1901) [An apostle of Madagascar. Father Louis Laboucarie of the Jesuits], brochure, 60 pages: Toulouse, imprimerie Antonin Gay.
38 (1916-1917). “Notes biologiques sur quelques aranéïdes de Madagascar” [Biological notes on some of the Araneida of Madagascar], Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, (NS), vol. 3, (1916-1917) pp. 173 to 189.
39 (1916-1917). “Note biologique sur des Lépidoptères de Madagascar” [Biological notes on the Lepidoptera of Madagascar], Bulletin de l’Académie malgache, (NS), vol. 3 (1916-1917) pp. 347 to 257.
40 (1920). “Araignées et Paludisme” [Spiders and Paludism (malaria)] Revue des questions scientifiques, Oct. 1920 (11 p.).
41 (1921). “Psychique de la bête. Chenilles et papillons” [Animal psyche. Caterpillars and Butterflies], Revue des questions scientifiques, Oct. 1921, pp. 350 to 369.
42 (1923). “L’esprit des petites bêtes. L’araignée maçonne et l’araignée filandière veloutée de Madagascar” [The thought of small animals. The builder spider[?] and the velvet web spider [?] of Madagascar], Revue des questions scientifiques, IVth series, vol. III, pp. 864 to 894.
43 (1928). “Comportement de Lépidoptères après ablation de la tête” [The behavior of Lepidoptera after removal of the head], Annales de la société scientifique de Bruxelles (Annals of the scientific society of Brussels), vol. 48, series B, 1st part; Reports on the meetings, Oct. 25, 1928 session, …section, pp. 140 to 142.
44 (1929). “Noces de papillon. Communications à très grande distance” [Butterfly weddings. Long-distance communication], Revue des questions scientifiques, Jan. 1929, pp. 58 to 85.
This article, reprinted here with permission, is taken from Hommes et Destins: Dictionnaire biographique d’Outre-Mer [Men and Destinies: Overseas Biographical Dictionary], vol. 3, published in 1977 by the Académie des Sciences d’Outre-Mer (15, rue la Pérouse, 75116 Paris, France). All rights reserved.