Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Forster, Johann Reinhold (Germany, England 1729-1798)
natural history


Forster's most important triumph was his being chosen naturalist on the second Captain Cook voyage, but his most significant success may have come as a nurturing teacher of his son Georg, one of the late eighteenth century's great prodigy-polymaths. Forster the elder trained for the clergy and actually practiced into his mid-thirties, at which point his broad knowledge of natural history began to gain him employments both in academia and in the field. The Cook expedition led to his most famous publication, Observations Made During a Voyage Round the World, in 1778--a work brimming with descriptions and interpretations that would later fascinate von Humboldt and Darwin. Forster was unable to capitalize on this success, however. A disagreeable sort who did not inspire trust, he soon found that professional opportunities for him in England had dried up. He and son Georg returned separately to Germany in 1780, where Johann lived out his remaining years associated with the University at Halle.

Life Chronology

--born in Dirschau, Poland, on 22 October 1729.
--1743-1748: schools at Marienwerder and Berlin
--1748-1751: educated for the clergy, University of Halle
--1753-1765: pastor at Nassenhuben, near Danzig
--1765: surveys the lower Volga's Saratov-Tsaritsyn region for the Russian government
--1766: he and his son Georg move to England
--1768: publishes his An Introduction to Mineralogy
--1768-1769: teaches natural history and languages at the Dissenters' Academy, Warrington, Lancashire
--1770: publishes his A Catalogue of British Insects
--1771: publishes his A Catalogue of the Animals of North America
--1772: elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London
--1772-1775: naturalist to Captain James Cook's second world voyage, visiting Antarctica, New Zealand and the Pacific
--1778: publishes his Observations Made During a Voyage Round the World
--1780: made professor of natural history and mineralogy at the University of Halle
--1790-: editor of the Magazin von Merkwürdigen Neuen Reisebeschreibungen
--dies at Halle, Germany, on 9 December 1798.

For Additional Information, See:

--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 5 (1972).
--A to Z of Marine Scientists (2003).
--Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 2 (1967): 215-224.
--The Tactless Philosopher: John Reinhold Forster (1729-1798) (1976).
--The Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster, 1772-1775 (1982).

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Copyright 2007 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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