Peter Forsskål was a Swedish scientist who did a taxonomical classification of animals of the Red Sea region, and used the Arabic name as the species name.
Peter Forsskål was born in Finland, but his family moved to Sweden.
His first name was spelled Peter (English), Petrus (Latin), and Pehr. His last name was spelled as Forskål, Forsskål and Forskal.
He studied under Carl Linnaeus, the founder of modern taxonomy. Linnaeus recommended him to King Frederick V of Denmark for a scientific expedition to Arabia Felix (Happy Arabia, today's Yemen).
The expedition left in 1760 and went to Egypt, then via the Red Sea to Jeddah and Yemen. Forsskål did a very meticulous and systematic taxonomy of the sea life in that part of the world, including many fish species previously unknown to science.
Forsskål died in Yemen in 1763, as well as others who accompanied the expedition, Carsten Niebuhr being the only survivor.
His work was published posthoumously by Neibuhr in 1775, a full 12 years after Forskaal's death.
His main works are:
- Petrus Forskål: Descriptiones Animalium - Avium, amphiborum, insectorum, vermium quæ in itinere orientali observavit Post mortem auctoris edidit Carsten Niebuhr. København, 1775.
- Petrus Forskål: Flora Ægyptiaco-Arabica sive descriptiones plantarum quas per Ægyptum Inferiorem et Arabiam felicem detexit, illustravit Petrus Forskål Post mortem auctoris edidit Carsten Niebuhr. København 1775.
- Petrus Forskål: Materia Medica ex Officina Pharmaceutica Kahiræ Descripta. This was the last chapter of the book contained Forsskål notes on what pharmacists used in Cairo, the ingredients, preparation, ...etc. The manuscript contains some Arabic, and is preserved in the Royal Library of Denmark.
Many of the fish in the Red Sea today still have Forsskål on their taxonomy name, whether you are looking them up in a book, or on Fishbase.
Forsskål followed a very easy and consistent system, he used the common name in Arabic of the fish as the species name.
Table of fish species with Arabic names
|Abudefduf||أبو دفدف||Seargent Major spp.|
|Acanthopagrus berda||بردة ؟||Picnic seabream|
|Acanthurus gahhm||قحم||Dusky Surgeonfish|
|Acanthurus sohal||سحل||Sohal Surgeonfish, Red Sea Surgeonfish|
|Aethaloperca rogaa||رقعة ؟||Redmouth Grouper|
|Alepes djedaba||جدابة||Shrimp scad|
|Carangoides bajad||بياض||Orangespotted Trevally||Being a Swede, the J is the Y sound|
|Carangoides ferdau||فرد ؟||Blue Trevally|
|Chaetodon abudafar||أبو دفر ؟||Whitetailed dascyllus||Now Dascyllus aruanus|
|Chirocentrus dorab||ضراب||Dorab Worlf-Herring|
|Elops machnata||مخناطة ؟||Tenpounder|
|Epinephelus summana||سمانة||Summan Grouper||Being a Swede, the V letter was a W sound|
|Epinephelus tauvina||توينة||Greasy or Spotted Grouper|
|Gerres oyena||عيينة ؟||Common silver-biddy|
|Hemiramphus far||فار||Spotted halfbeak|
|Himantura uarnak||ورنك||Honeycomb Stingray|
|Hipposcarus harid||حريد||Redlined Parrotfish|
|Lethrinus harak||حرك||Blackspot Emperor|
|Lethrinus mahsena||محسنة||Yelowtailed Emperor|
|Lethrinus ramak||رمك||Yellowbanded Bream|
|Lutjanus bohar||بوهار||Twospot Red Snapper|
|Lutjanus kasmira||كسميرة ؟||Bluestriped snapper, Bluestripe snapper|
|Mormyrus kannume||كنومة ؟||Elephant snout fish|
|Myripristis murdjan||مرجان||Red Squirrelfish|
|Neoniphon sammara||سمارة||Lonchin Soldierfish|
|Pastinachus sephen||سفن||Cowtail Stingray|
|Platax teira||طيرة||Longfin Batfish|
|Pomacanthus asfur||عصفور||Arabian Angelfish, Red Sea Angelfish|
|Priacanthus hamrur||حمرور||Duskyfin Bulleye, Scad|
|Rhabdosargus haffara||حفارة||Haffara seabream|
|Rhabdosargus sarba||صربة||Goldlined seabream|
|Rhinobatos halavi||حلوي ؟||Halavi's guitarfish|
|Rhynchobatus djiddensis||Djiddensis means “of Djeddah”, meaning the city of Jeddah where Forskal has collected lots of his specimens|
|Scarus ghobban||غبان||Flame Parrotfish|
|Scolopsis ghanam||غنم||Arabian Monocle Bream|
|Scomberoides lysan||لسان||Largemouthed Leatherskin|
|Sillago sihama||سهمة||Northern Whiting|
|Taeniura lymma||لمة ؟||Bluespotted Stingray|
|Thryssa baelama||بيلمة ؟||Hairfin Anchovy|
|Valamugil seheli||سهلية||Bluespot Mullet|
|Variola louti||لوتي||Lunartailed Grouper|
A list of 155 fish species that Forskal classified can be found on this page.
More information on Forskal
- A biography of Pehr Forsskål from the Natural History Museum of Denmark.
- Notes on his pharmacy and plant collection Arabic mansucript in Denmark's Royal Library.
- Biography of Peter Forskal from Linne Online.
- Finnish Orientalist page with a brief entry on Forskal.
- Forskal's zoological collection at the Zoological Museum in Denmark.
Other Links and Resources
- Another article on the Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature by Mark Isaak.
- Fishbase is a great resource for all fish species. It even has an Arabic section, but only for a few species from Libya, and reversed names.
Michel-Pierre D... (not verified)
The Danish expedition to ArabiaTue, 2013/08/27 - 16:40
The 6 members of the expedition left Copenhagen at the beginning of 1761 (not 1760 as above),
4 died around mid-1763, and the 5th at the beginning of 1764.
Carsten Niebuhr, the geographer, was on his own from that time until Nov. 1767, when he returned to Copenhagen, after crossing from the Chatt el Arab through Turkey and the Balkans, nearly full 7 years away.
Niebuhr did not publish his 3rd book until 1778, well after he had published his friend Forsskal' notes and drawings, in 1775, an action which cost him much work, and a lot of money.
this last sentence is designed to delete the despising formula above: "was published posthoumously by Neibuhr in 1775, a full 12 years after Forskaal's death".