Lichtenberg-Kolleg - The Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study

History of Natural History in the long 18th century

Two conferences in Berne (21st to 23rd September 2017) and Göttingen (7th to 9th December 2017)

Simona Boscani Leoni and Dominik Hünniger are organising two conferences on the history of natural history in autumn/winter 2017.

In the early eighteenth-century the physician and naturalist Johann Jakob Scheuchzer published in Zurich a bibliography of all books on natural history that he knew about. His catalogue contained publications on Europe, Africa, Asia and America. Scheuchzer’s idea was to combine the different “local” natural histories into a natural history of the world. His contribution to this “global natural history” was his research about the Alps and their fauna, flora, minerals and about the “homo alpinus helveticus”.
Half a century later, the Physical Society of Zurich, inspired by similar projects undertaken elsewhere, conducted surveys of the city’s subject territory. Likewise, inspired by reports from travels to hitherto unknown regions and news about the exploration of faraway territories, diverse actors – both with and without academic training – all over Europe became increasingly interested in their surroundings. Drawing on travelogues and questionnaires of local and colonial actors as well as on their own observations, early-modern natural historians collected information about both nature and people inhabiting these territories, which helped to turn them into distinct spaces.
The first conference held at Bern was entitled: Mapping the Territory: Exploring People and Nature, 1700-1830 and papers analysed the exploration and "invention" of territories in a comparative perspective. Following the findings of historians emphasising the social and cultural practices around early modern natural history the focus was on collecting and exchanging, measuring and classifying information on territories of different scope.

The second conference will be held in Göttingen on 7th to 9th December 2017 and is entitled: Global natural history around 1800: collections, media, actors

Limited spaces are available upon prior registration. Please contact Dominik Hünniger until 27th November 2017.

The later decades of the 18th century became an important era for the development of different fields of natural history and related fields of ethnology and archaeology as academic subjects due to the advancement of Linnaean systematics in botany and zoology. These caused paradigmatic changes in the perception, systematization and classification of the natural world. Collections and the practices of collecting played a major role in this process and influenced the global exchange of ideas, knowledge, specimens and personnel. Material as well as intellectual exchange happened in diverse institutions that also included collections, media, the university classroom and the natural world itself. At the same time European exploration and colonialism influenced and was influenced by these developments too.

Thursday, 7th December

13:45 – 14:00 Dominik Hünniger, Lichtenberg-Kolleg Göttingen
Welcome and Introduction

Session 1: Mapping and Prospecting
Chair: Joanna Wharton, Lichtenberg-Kolleg Göttingen

14:00 – 14:45 Helen Cowie, University of York:
Silk of the Andes: studying, exploiting and conserving the Peruvian vicuna

14:45– 15:15 coffee/tea break

15:15 – 16:00 Rachel Koroloff, Lichtenberg-Kolleg Göttingen:
Local natures, global gardens: Kamchatka, Astrakhan’, St. Petersburg

16:30 – 18:00 Visit to the Goettingen Herbarium

18:15 – 19:00 Lissa Roberts, University of Twente
Public Keynote: The infrastructures of natural history,
Auditorium Hörsaal, Weender Str. 2

Friday, 8th December
Session 2: Surveying and Perceiving
Chair: Simona Boscani Leoni, University of Bern

09:30 – 10:15 Ousmane Seydi, University Basel:
Michel Adanson in Senegal (1749-1753). Survey of the daily activities of a naturalist in an African environment

10:15 – 11:00 Minakshi Menon, MPI History of Science Berlin:
Transferrable Surveys: Natural History from the Hebrides to South India

11:00 – 11:30 coffee/tea break

11:30 – 12:15 Sahar Bazzaz, College of the Holy Cross:
P.E. Botta and the Politics of French Natural History in Early 19th Century Yemen

12:15 – 13:00 Jon Mathieu, University of Luzern:
Divergent perception: deserts and mountains in transition to modernity, seen through Alexander von Humboldt’s ‘Views of Nature’

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

Session 3: Inventing difference
Chair: Gabriella Szalay, University of Göttingen

14:00 – 14:45 Bruce Buchan, Griffith University:
Scottish medical ethnography: colonial travel and the natural history of race, c. 1770-1805

14:45 – 15:30 Linda Andersson Burnett, Linnaeus University:
Teaching human difference: how ethnographic instruction at Edinburgh evolved from mapping borders to collecting skulls c. 1782-1817

15:30 – 16:00 coffee/tea break

16:00 – 16:45 Surekha Davies, Western Connecticut State University:
Collecting artefacts, inventing Europe, and inventing the indigenous c.1800

Saturday, 9th December

Session 4: Networks and Methodologies
Chair: Ivan Gaskell, Bard Graduate Center

09:30 – 10:15 Mungo Campbell, The Hunterian, Glasgow:
‘… so obviously useful’: cultural and scientific networks in late Enlightenment Scotland and the publication of Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, 1814-1821

10:15 – 10.45 coffee/tea break

10:45 – 12:15 Anna Toledano, Mackanzie Cooley, Duygu Yildrim, Stanford University:
Mapping objects, mapping science: new methods of early modern natural history

12:15 – 13:00 Dominik Hünniger, Lichtenberg-Kolleg Göttingen:
A tale of many species. A relational approach to the global history of entomology, ca. 1760-1815

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 14:45 Philip Jones, South Australian Museum:
The Australian Aboriginal ‘corroboree’ as a theatre of engagement, 1780s – 1820s

14:45 – 15:15 Pratik Chakrabarti, University of Manchester:
Concluding comments