As a child, Alexander von Humboldt was sickly and a bad student. After failing to shine in economics and engineering, he grew up to revolutionize the domain of geography. He is remembered for his research on magnetic storms and his treatise on nature, Kosmos. He also spoke about climate change.
Ernst Haeckel had initially practiced medicine before he gained an interest in Charles Darwin’s theory and began exploring zoology and related fields. He not only coined terms such as ecology, but also named numerous species and created a genealogical tree. He drew numerous figures of animals and sea creatures, too.
A pioneer of physical anthropology, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach laid down one of the first racial classification systems for humans after studying human skulls, dividing mankind into five racial groups. Born into a family of academics, he was a prodigy. He was against scientific racism, though his theory promoted the degenerative hypothesis.
German-born Dutch naturalist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian is remembered for her drawings of insects and plants. She also contributed to the development of entomology through her detailed work on insects and her documentation of a butterfly’s metamorphosis. Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium is her best-known work.
Eduard Schnitzer, or Emin Pasha, was born into a German Jewish family in modern-day Poland. A qualified physician, he moved to Constantinople after being disqualified in Germany. He not only served the Ottoman rulers but also surveyed and explored Africa extensively. He was eventually killed by Arab slave raiders.
German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas was born to a professor of surgery and had, by age 15, formulated classifications of several animal groups. He chiefly worked in and around Russia, and is remembered for his 3-volume geological study, Journey Through Various Provinces of the Russian Empire.
Seventeenth-century German physician and traveler Engelbert Kaempfer had been on trade missions across the world, including places such as Russia, Iran, Java, and Japan. His written experiences about his stay in Japan became a valuable source of information on the flora and fauna of the country.
German naturalist and botanist Lorenz Oken is remembered as one of the most significant German natural philosophers of the 19th century and a leader of the Naturphilosophie movement. His studies on Wolfgang von Goethe’s theory on the vertebrate skull helped prepare ground for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
German naturalist, ethnologist, and explorer Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied is remembered for his pioneering expeditions to Brazil and to the American West. In the latter journey, he was accompanied by Swiss artist Karl Bodmer, who drew illustrations supporting Maximilian’s notes about the tribal culture and life there.
Best known for his 6-volume plant catalog Herbarium Amboinense, Georg Eberhard Rumpf came to be known as the Pliny of the Indies. His work primarily focused on the flora he found in Amboina, where he was sent by the Dutch East India Company. It was, unfortunately, published 39 years after his death.
German naturalist and explorer Eduard Rüppell is remembered for his pioneering expedition to northeastern Africa. He was the first naturalist to explore Ethiopia, or Abyssinia. He also brought back many zoological and ethnographical samples to Europe for further research. He also published written accounts of his travel experiences.
German physician Johann Lukas Schönlein made many pioneering contributions to medical science, such as using the microscope for the first time the chemical analyses of urine and blood diagnosing diseases. He first published the word tuberculosis and coined the word hemophilia. He also discovered Achorion schonleinii as the cause of ringworm infection.
Initially a schoolmaster, Christian Konrad Sprengel rose to be a prominent botanist in Germany and is now remembered for his contribution to the study of plant fertilization. However, the initial failure of his published work made him decide not to publish any further work. In his later years, he turned to philology.