Antonio de Ulloa

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Antonio de Ulloa

Almirante Antonio de Ulloa.jpg
Posthumous portrait by Andrés Cortés (1856)
Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre-Giral

(1716-01-12)12 January 1716
Died3 July 1795(1795-07-03) (aged 79)
Spouse(s)Francisca Ramírez de Laredo
Scientific career
Fields Astronomy, Natural History
1st Spanish Governor of Louisiana
In office
Monarch Charles III
Preceded by Charles Philippe Aubry
as French Colonial Governor
Succeeded by Charles Philippe Aubry (Acting)
Military service
Allegiance Flag of New Spain.svg Viceroyalty of New Spain
Bandera de Espana 1701-1760.svg  Kingdom of Spain
Branch/service Spanish Navy

Antonio de Ulloa y de la Torre-Giral, FRS, FRSA, KOS (12 January 1716 – 3 July 1795) was a Spanish general of the navy, explorer, scientist, author, astronomer, colonial administrator and the first Spanish governor of Louisiana. He was appointed to that office after France ceded the territory to Spain in 1763, following its defeat by Great Britain in the Seven Years' War. Ulloa's rule was resisted by the French Creole colonists in New Orleans, who expelled him in 1768 from West Louisiana.

Fellow of the Royal Society Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, including Honorary, Foreign and Royal Fellows

Fellowship of the Royal Society is an award granted to individuals that the Royal Society of London judges to have made a 'substantial contribution to the improvement of natural knowledge, including mathematics, engineering science, and medical science'.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is one of the royal academies of Sweden. Founded on June 2, 1739, it is an independent, non-governmental scientific organization which takes special responsibility for promoting the natural sciences and mathematics and strengthen their influence in society, whilst endeavouring to promote the exchange of ideas between various disciplines.

Order of Santiago religious order founded in the 12th century, Spain and Portugal

The Order of Santiago, also known as the Order of St. James of the Sword, is a religious and military order founded in the 12th century. It owes its name to the Patron Saint of Spain, "Santiago". Its initial objective was to protect the pilgrim of St. James' Way, to defend Christendom and to remove the Muslim Moors from the Iberian Peninsula. Entrance was not however restricted to nobles of Spain exclusively, and so many of her members have been prominent Catholic Europeans in general. The Order of Santiago is one of the most renowned military orders in the history of the world, its insignia being particularly recognisable and abundant in Western art.


Ulloa had already established an international reputation in science, having been part of the French Geodesic Mission in present-day Ecuador. He published an extensive record of his observations and findings on the South American trip, which was published in French in 1848 and in English as A Voyage to South America (1806). He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The French Geodesic Mission was an 18th-century expedition to what is now Ecuador carried out for the purpose of measuring the roundness of the Earth and measuring the length of a degree of latitude at the Equator. The mission was one of the first geodesic missions carried out under modern scientific principles, and the first major international scientific expedition.


Ulloa was born in Seville, Spain. His father was an economist. Ulloa entered the navy in 1733. In 1735, he, along with fellow Spaniard Jorge Juan, was appointed to the French Geodesic Mission. The French Academy of Sciences was sending this scientific expedition to present-day Ecuador to measure a degree of meridian arc at the equator.

Seville Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Seville is a Spanish city, the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. It is situated on the lower reaches of the Guadalquivir River, in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. Seville has a municipal population of about 690,000 as of 2016, and a metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, making it the largest city in Andalusia, the fourth-largest city in Spain and the 30th most populous municipality in the European Union. Its Old Town, with an area of 4 square kilometres (2 sq mi), contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies. The Seville harbour, located about 80 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean, is the only river port in Spain. Seville experiences high temperatures in the Summer, with daily maximums routinely above 35 °C (95 °F) in July and August.

Jorge Juan y Santacilia Spanish mathematician and naval officer

Jorge Juan y Santacilia was a Spanish mathematician, scientist, naval officer, and mariner.

French Academy of Sciences learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research

The French Academy of Sciences is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research. It was at the forefront of scientific developments in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and is one of the earliest Academies of Sciences.

Ulloa worked in Ecuador from 1736 to 1744, during which time the two Spaniards discovered the element platinum in the area. Ulloa was the first person to write a scientific description of the metal. [1] Ulloa is credited with discovering platinum, because of this. [2] [3] In 1745, having finished their scientific labours, Ulloa and Jorge Juan prepared to return to Spain, agreeing to travel on different ships in order to minimize the danger of losing their important samples and records.

Platinum Chemical element with atomic number 78

Platinum is a chemical element with the symbol Pt and atomic number 78. It is a dense, malleable, ductile, highly unreactive, precious, silverish-white transition metal. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platino, meaning "little silver".

The ship upon which Ulloa was travelling was captured by the British, and he was taken to England as a prisoner. In that country, through his scientific attainments, Ulloa gained the friendship of the men of science, and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. In a short time, through the influence of the president of this society, he was released and able to return to Spain. He published an account of the people and countries he had encountered during the French Geodesic Mission (1748), which was translated into English and published as A Voyage to South America (1806). [4]

Portrait by unknown artist, Art Institute of Chicago Antonio Ulloa y de la Torre-Guiral.jpg
Portrait by unknown artist, Art Institute of Chicago

Ulloa became prominent as a scientist and was appointed to serve on various important scientific commissions. He is credited with the establishment of the first museum of natural history, the first metallurgical laboratory in Spain, and the observatory of Cadiz. In 1751, de Ulloa was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Metallurgy domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metals

Metallurgy is a domain of materials science and engineering that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their inter-metallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. Metallurgy is used to separate metals from their ore. Metallurgy is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to the production of metals, and the engineering of metal components for usage in products for consumers and manufacturers. The production of metals involves the processing of ores to extract the metal they contain, and the mixture of metals, sometimes with other elements, to produce alloys. Metallurgy is distinguished from the craft of metalworking, although metalworking relies on metallurgy, as medicine relies on medical science, for technical advancement. The science of metallurgy is subdivided into chemical metallurgy and physical metallurgy.

In 1758 he returned to South America as governor of Huancavelica in Peru and the general manager of the quicksilver mines there. He held this position until 1764.

After France was defeated by the English in the Seven Years' War, it ceded its territories west of the Mississippi River to Spain. Ulloa was appointed by the Spanish Crown to serve as the first Spanish governor of West Louisiana, and reached New Orleans, the major city and port, on 5 March 1766. The French colonists refused to recognize Spanish rule, and expelled Ulloa from Louisiana by a Creole uprising during the Louisiana Rebellion of 1768. On 28 October, as riots broke out in New Orleans, the governor and his pregnant wife were taken to a Spanish vessel. [5] The Superior Council voted that the governor leave within three days. He complied, leaving on 1 November. The revolt was ultimately crushed by forces under Alejandro O'Reilly in 1769, establishing Spanish dominance in the colony once and for all.[ citation needed ]

For the remainder of his life, Ulloa served as a naval officer.[ citation needed ] In 1779 he became lieutenant-general of the naval forces. Ulloa died at Isla de Leon, Cádiz, in 1795.[ citation needed ]


Bust of Antonio de Ulloa in Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador 20061001 - Mitad del Mundo (busto de Antonio de Ulloa).jpg
Bust of Antonio de Ulloa in Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador

As a result of his scientific work in Peru, Ulloa published Relación histórica del viaje á la América Meridional (Madrid, 1784), which contains a full, accurate, and clear description of the greater part of South America geographically, and of its inhabitants and natural history. (It was published in English in 1806.)

In collaboration with Jorge Juan mentioned above, he also wrote Noticias secretas de América, giving valuable information regarding the early religious orders in Spanish America. This work was published by David Barry in London, 1826. [6]

Ulloa is the namesake for the meteorological term "Ulloa's halo" [7] (also known as "Bouguer's halo"), which an observer may see infrequently in fog when the sun breaks through (for example, on a mountain) — effectively a "fog-bow" (as opposed to a "rain-bow"). [8] A fog-bow is defined as "an infrequently observed meteorological phenomenon; a faint white, circular arc or complete ring of light that has a radius of 39 degrees and is centered on the antisolar point. When observed, it is usually in the form of a separate outer ring around an anticorona." [9]

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  1. Larrie D. Ferreiro (20 August 2013). Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World. Basic Books. p. 265. ISBN   978-0-465-02345-5.
  2. Yanes, Javier (12 January 2016). "Antonio de Ulloa: the Discoverer of Platinum?". Knowledge Window. OpenMind. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  3. Aristizábal-Fúquene, Andrea (2015). "El platino: contribuciones sociohistóricas y cientifícas desde el siglo xviii. Parte I" [Platinum: Scientific and Socio-historic Contributions from the 18th Century]. Educación Química (in Spanish). 26 (2): 146–151. doi:10.1016/j.eq.2015.04.009. ISSN   0187-893X.
  4. Antonio de Ulloa, John Adams translator (1806, edition 4) A Voyage to South America Archived 5 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine , Biodiversity Heritage Library
  5. Whitaker, Arthur P. (May 1935). "Antonio de Ulloa". Hispanic American Historical Review. 15 (2): 155–194. doi:10.2307/2506293. JSTOR   2506293.
  6. Antonio Ulloa and Jorge Juan (1826 edition) Noticias Secretas de America, HathiTrust
  7. Paul Murdin (25 December 2008). Full Meridian of Glory: Perilous Adventures in the Competition to Measure the Earth. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 67. ISBN   978-0-387-75534-2.
  8. Fred Schaaf (1983). Wonders of the Sky: Observing Rainbows, Comets, Eclipses, the Stars, and Other Phenomena. Courier Corporation. p. 44. ISBN   978-0-486-24402-0.
  9. Tricker, R.A.R.. An Introduction to Meteorological Optics. 1970. pp. 192–193

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Ventura Fuentes (1913). "Antonio de Ulloa"  . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton.

Preceded by
Charles Philippe Aubry
Spanish Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Charles Philippe Aubry (acting)