Jean-Henri Fabre

When J.-H. Fabre bought the Harmas, he made it his open-air laboratory. At the age of 56, the "Virgil of insects" as Edmond de Rostand referred to him, realised his dream and was finally able to study "the plant and the bug" full-time.

A passion for insects

Until his death in 1915, J.-H. Fabre studied plant life and the habits of countless insects tirelessly at his Harmas. A scrupulous entomologist, he dedicated his life to hymenoptera and coleoptera. His scientific rigour as an observer was matched only by his lively writing style. He wrote thousands of pages in the service of his precious "bugs", collected in the ten volumes of his major work: Souvenirs Entomologiques.

A love of beautiful plants

As much a botanist as an entomologist, J.-H. Fabre carried out numerous experiments on his own property and on field expeditions. Thanks to Bernard Verlot from the Muséum and Théodore Delacour of the Vilmorin-Andrieux seed company in Paris, he received many cuttings and seeds to add to his garden and try to acclimatise plants to the harsh southern climate.

A man of science

Recognised by his peers, J.-H. Fabre enjoyed an extensive correspondence with John Stuart Mill, Louis Pasteur, Esprit Requien and Charles Darwin. The latter described him as "an inimitable observer" in one of the two letters preserved at the Harmas and thanked him for sending his Souvenirs Entomologiques. He added: "I do not believe that any one in Europe has more truly admired your investigations than I have done”.

Jean-Henri Fabre

Visite du président Raymond Poincarré à l'Harmas en 1914

© DR
Jean-Henri Fabre

Jean-Henri Fabre, Legros et le sculpteur Sicard à l'Harmas

© DR

The soul of an artist

Ever committed to science, J.-H. Fabre let his curiosity and artistic sensibility shine through. As a member of the Félibres collective, he penned poems in Provençal about mathematics and the cicadas he had so closely observed, and wrote music to accompany them. Unable to preserve mushrooms in his precious herbarium, he learned to paint in watercolour and produced almost 650 sheets, as precise as they were delicate.

The road to fame

A meeting with Dr G. Legros, around 1906, brought J.-H. Fabre's name out of obscurity. Before becoming his official biographer, Dr Legros organised a scientific jubilee in his honour at the Harmas in 1910, which was followed in 1913 by a visit from the French President, Raymond Poincaré, who expressed the nation’s gratitude. J.-H. Fabre had reached the height of his fame.

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