Historian, Botanist and Liberation Advocate Dr Agustín Stahl
Born and raised in Aguadilla, Dr Agustín Stahl (12 January 1842-12 July 1917) was a strong and outspoken advocate for his home country’s independence from Spain. He was also a medical doctor and scientist, with a special interest in the scientific fields of zoology, botany and ethnology. His interest in these fields led him to write a number of books and scientific papers on the plant life, history and people of Puerto Rico. Dr Stahl’s former house in Bayamón was turned into a museum highlighting his life and work, and his remains are buried in Bayamón’s cemetery. A bust of this notable Puerto Rican was sculpted by Puerto Rican sculptor Tomás Batista, and is displayed at the University of Cayey.
Dr Stahl received his primary and secondary education in the town of his birth, Aguadilla. He studied at the universities of Würzburg in Germany and Prague in Czechoslovakia, graduating as a Doctor of Medicine in the year 1864, whereupon he returned to Puerto Rico to establish a medical practice in Bayamón. Stahl’s spare time was spent pursuing his interest in botany, publishing his findings relating to Puerto Rico’s flora in his work entitled Estudios sobre la flora de Puerto Rico between 1883 and 1888. Featuring around 1,330 plants, Stahl’s manual is used in botanical gardens all over the world and forms the basis for extended studies by other botanists. Named after Stahl, the genus Stahlia has a single species, namely Stahlia monosperma, commonly referred to as Cóbana Negra, which is found only in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands, and is listed by the IUCN as endangered. Other plants named in Stahl’s honor include Senna pendula var. stahlii , Argythamnia stahlii, Eugenia stahlii, Lyonia stahlii, and Ternstroemia stahlii.
As a member of the Puerto Rican Autonomist Party, Agustín Stahl supported Puerto Rico’s independence from Spain. At the time he held a position at the Civil Institute of Natural Sciences in Spain, and his political views resulted in his deportation from that country in 1898. He returned to Bayamón, remaining there until his death on 12 July 1917. His legacy lives on in the work he accomplished, particularly in the field of botany, and in his loyal support of the country of his birth.