When recognition of independence lay tantalizingly out of reach, officials of the first Colombian republic devoted funds and expertise toward hiring French-trained naturalists for an expedition. These officials' plan to gain diplomatic recognition of Colombia through European scientific patronage networks initially seemed poised to work. As promises of Colombian platinum piqued British moneylenders' interest, French mapmakers etched the naturalists' early findings onto copperplates. But both the expedition and the Colombian republic emerged amid the transatlantic geopolitical changes and local economic and political crises of the 1820s. The illness and death of key actors compounded these uncertainties. Drawing on published and manuscript correspondence, memoirs, and the naturalists' findings, in addition to a close reading of changes made to French-printed maps, this essay explores the entangled fates of the expedition and the Colombian republic to reveal the materiality and spatiality of natural history knowledge production and the praxis of geopolitics.

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