The priest Père David was born as Jean Pierre Armand David in 1826 as son of a doctor and mayor in a village in southwestern France. After his education in Bayonne he went to Paris to enter the congregation of the ‘Lazaristes’, who were missionaries in non-christian regions. Between 1850 and 1862 he was in a Lazarist cloister near Genua, where he devoted himself to natural sciences.
When in 1861 the Paris zoologist Milne-Edwards asked the cooperation of missionaries to collect animals and plants in – then still unexplored – China, the Lazarists sent Armand David to this country. Once in China he made several large expeditions; in 1866 to Mongolia, in 1868-1870 in central China and Sichuan, and in 1872-1874 in Central and Eastern China.
Probably dating from that time is the following portrait:
During the expedition a large amount of animals and plants were sent to the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, where the material was studied and new species were described, many with an eponym after Père David (e.g. Davidia involucrata, Buddleja davidii), but of course also to other contacts of the describing author (e.g. Bulimus baudoni Deshayes, 1870).
In 1874 he returned to France, where he settled down in the headquarters of the congregation in Paris. He published on his expeditions, and also a large work on the birds of China. The following portrait was made by the photographer Ferdinand Bérillon (a malacologist himself) in Bayonne in 1884.
The back side of this photo tells the whole summary of his life…
Deshayes, GP. 1870. Diagnoses d’espèces nouvelles de mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles de la principauté de Moupin, Thibet oriental envoyées au Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris par M. l’Abbé Armand David missionaire. Bulletin des Nouvelles Archives du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris 6:19-27.