The Berlin-Cape Nexus: Early Nineteenth-Century German Naturalists in the Cape Colony

Patrick Grogan

Monument to Martin Hinrich Carl Lichtenstein at the Berlin Zoological Garden (source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Martin_Lichtenstein_berlin.jpg)

Erstbetreuerin: Prof. Dr. Julia Tischler. Zweitbetreuer: Prof. Nigel Penn

This project will explore the network which developed around Hinrich Lichtenstein – the University of Berlin’s first Chair of Zoology and director of its research-orientated Museum of Zoology from 1815 until his death in 1857 – in his attempts to fill the museum with as many specimens of different animal species as possible. Of particular interest will be the extension of this network to the Cape Colony, whence Lichtenstein acquired a not insignificant portion of the museum’s materials through the efforts of both the young, German salaried naturalists he employed to collect there as well as the independent commercial traders, such as the Hanoverian traveller Ludwig Krebs, who would ultimately become the museum's most reliable suppliers in the region. Here, the means by which Lichtenstein used his position at the Berlin Zoological Museum as well as his relative fame as a travel writer to acquire funding for these missions and purchases will not be the only focus, but also the cosmopolitan social world which collectors and traders inhabited in the Cape, including their interaction and competition with each other and, in particular, the extent to which they cooperated with and relied upon local peoples whose knowledge was likely to have been indispensable in their quest to locate and identify potential specimens. Making extensive use of little-studied archival documentation in South Africa and Germany, this project will be unique for its focus on the oft-neglected links between the German-speaking world and the early nineteenth century Cape Colony, a transcontinental context which will serve as a valuable case-study for exploring how knowledge travels through time and space and the manner in which it is influenced, altered, distorted, appropriated, and reconstituted in the process. It is to be expected that this will help to reveal that today's accepted scientific canon, often viewed as an objective and disembodied body of knowledge with invariably Western origins, was often co-constructed by Europeans and locals alike in very particular temporal and spatial settings in the era of European exploration and colonisation of the global South. It may, in so doing, be revealed in what ways knowledge from and about southern Africa contributed to the shaping of new academic and scientific (sub-)disciplines in German-speaking areas of Europe and the theories which would emerge therefrom into the speculative world of pre-Darwinian natural science.