Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Liebig, Justus von (Germany 1803-1873)
||Liebig was one of the nineteenth century's front-rank
chemists, both for his leading work in developing the fields of organic
chemistry and agricultural chemistry, and for his efforts on behalf of
the professionalization of the science. Two of Liebig's discoveries (which
actually had been reported earlier by Sprengel, receiving little attention
at that time) also represent critical elements of modern ecological theory.
First, Liebig helped debunk the commonly held notion that plant fertility
was due only to organic substances, showing that minerals, water, and
atmospheric gases were of primary import, and thus paving the way for
all manner of physiological ecology-related environmental studies. Liebig
also introduced the "law of the minimum," the idea that agricultural crop
yield is directly related to the least available critical nutrient, whatever
that may be in a particular instance. The limiting factor concept would
prove a central theme in the development of ecological theory in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
--born in Darmstadt, Germany, on 12 May 1803.
--1820: enters University of Bonn to study chemistry
--1821-1822: studies chemistry at the University of Erlangen under Kastner
--1822: Ph.D. in absentia, University of Erlangen
--1823-1824: studies chemistry in Paris
--1823: presents work on fulminates to the French Academy of Sciences
--1824: appointed extraordinary professor of chemistry, University of
--1826-1851: ordinary professor of chemistry, University of Giessen
--1829-1839: involved in organic chemistry studies
--1832: takes over the Annalen der Pharmacie
--1832: discovers the benzoyl radical, with Friedrich Wöhler
--1840: receives the Copley medal from the Royal Society of London
--1840: publishes his Die
Organische Chemie in Ihrer Anwendung auf Agricultur und Physiologie
--1840: Annalen der Pharmacie renamed Organische Chemie in
Ihrer Anwendung auf Agricultur und Physiologie
--1842: publishes his Die
Organische Chemie in Ihrer Anwendung auf Physiologie und Pathologie
--1845: made a baron
--1845-1849: experiments with plants and nitrogen absorption
--1852-1873: holds the ordinary chair of chemistry at the University of
--1859: elected to the German Academy of Naturalists Leopoldina
--1859: president, Bavarian Academy of Sciences
--dies at Munich, Germany, on 18 April 1873.
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol.
--Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, 2nd Ed., Vol. 2 (1994).
--Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 15 (1938): 553-562.
--Proceedings of the
American Philosophical Society, Vol. 132(1) (1988):
--The Emergence of Agricultural Science: Justus Liebig and the Americans,
--Justus von Liebig: The Chemical Gatekeeper (1997).
von Liebig, His Life and Work (1803-1873) (1895).
Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights
Return to Home/Alphabetical Listing by Name
Return to Listing by Country
Return to Listing by Discipline