Goethe and Reichenbach: the heritage of Romantic philosophy in post-Linnaean Botany

Date: 29 April 2010
Time: 4:00 - 6:00 pm
Venue: Room 150, Main Building The University of Hong Kong

Goethe and Reichenbach: the heritage of Romantic philosophy in post-Linnaean Botany by Dr Nicolas Robin (Scaliger Institute, Leiden University)

seminar poster This paper demonstrates the importance of the reception and development of Goethe's concept of the metamorphosis of plants as a methodological and philosophical framework in botanical theory.  The paper focuses on the textbooks written by the German physician and botanist, Ludwig Reichenbach (1793-1879), and his first attempt to use Goethe's idea of plant metamorphosis in Botanik für Damen [Botany for Women] (1828).  Reichenbach paid particular attention to Goethe's views on the essence of nature; he regarded Goethe's idea of metamorphosis in the plant kingdom as an ideal model for interpreting connections among natural phenomena, in particular as a conceptual frame for a natural system.  Furthermore, Reichenbach aimed to develop the philosophical statement of metamorphosis, in which he called for natural-philosophical conceptions in order to materialize his representation of plant 'affinities', and an 'ontogeny' of the whole plant kingdom.  This paper demonstrates that Reichenbach belonged to a new school of thought, which left its mark on the history and philosophy of botany.

About the speaker:
Nicolas Robin is Clusius Research Professor in History and Theory of Gardens and Botany at the Scaliger Institute, Leiden University and is a coordinator of the doctoral programme, 'Experimentieren im mathematisch- naturwissenschaftlichen Unterricht' at Freiburg University of Education (Germany).  Between 2004 and 2009 he held a research post at the Institute for the History of Medicine, Natural Science and Technology at the University of Jena, Germany.  He is the author of numerous publications in the history of botany and botanical gardens, and has recently guest-edited a special issue of Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, volume 28 (2008).
Dr Robin’s visit has been sponsored by the Germany/Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme of the German Academic Exchange Service and the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong.

All are welcome; no pre-registration is required.

The event is co-hosted by:
Departments of Philosophy, History, and the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine

For further enquiries, please contact Dr Alexandra Cook.