Ferdinand Rugel was a professional field botanist who primarily collected in the Southern Appalachians, Florida, and Cuba. His collections were sold in Europe, mainly through Robert James Shuttleworth, a British-born botanist who lived in Switzerland and France. Rugel was born near Altdorf, Wurttemburg, on January 26, 1806. He became an M.D. by serving an apprenticeship with a pharmaceutical house in Berne, Switzerland, where he became interested in botany. By 1838 he was in the field collecting for extended periods and by 1839 was a professional collector. In that year he spent at least four months in the field, traveling widely.
In 1840 Rugel came to the United States to collect biological specimens in the Southern Appalachians, though he supported himself as a pharmacist. Rugel traveled to Portsmouth, Virginia, and Knoxville, finally venturing into Dandridge, Tennessee, in 1842. In Dandridge, he met and married Laura Bell.
Until 1849 Rugel was primarily a plant collector, although he seems to have practiced medicine at Dandridge in the mid-1840s. After 1849 he moved to Knoxville, where he worked for a wholesale drug firm. Sometime after the Civil War he moved to Jefferson County near Talbot. Before 1849 and after 1865, Rugel occasionally left Tennessee on extended collecting trips, going as far as Cuba. In his later years he began to emphasize the Southwest, especially Texas. As late as 1878, Rugel still did significant field work. He died on December 31, 1879, in Jefferson County.
James X. Corgan, “Notes on Tennessees Pioneer Scientists,” Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science 53 (1978): 2-7