Joakim Frederik Schouw

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Joakim Frederik Schouw

Joakim Frederik Schouw (February 7, 1789, Copenhagen – April 28, 1852, Copenhagen) was a Danish lawyer, botanist and politician. From 1821, professor in botany at the University of Copenhagen — first extraordinary professor, but after the death of J.W. Hornemann in 1841 ordinary. His main scientific field was the new discipline of phytogeography.

Biography[edit]

He was already a lawyer when he in the summer of 1812 travelled to Norway with the Norwegian botanist Christen Smith. On this journey, he was strongly impressed with the conspicuous zonal division of the mountain vegetation and distribution of plant species in relation to altitude. Back in Copenhagen, he attended the lectures given by Martin Vahl and J.W. Hornemann. While earning for his living as a lawyer, he delved into the copious literature on plant geography, e.g. by Wahlenberg and von Humboldt. The first result of his efforts was a doctoral dissertation (1816): Dissertatio de sedibus plantarum originariis. In this thesis, he dealt with the question of Generatio aequivoca, that is the origin of species through continuous evolution, a view he advocated.

He was then given a travel grant to study phytogeography in Southern Europe and to visit A. P. de Candolle in Geneva. The expectations of his scientific potential were so great that King Frederik VI granted him an extraordinary professorship of botany at the University of Copenhagen. In 1822, his most significant contribution was published:

  • Grundtræk til en almindelig Plantegeographie. Copenhagen, Gyldendalske Boghandels Forlag. German translation: Grundzüge einer allgemeinen Pflanzengeographie, Berlin 1823.

His later scientific contributions turned out to be rather meagre. He planned a great work and gathered material for it during two journeys to Italy. However, he never had time to continue his work. From 1835-1849, he was one of the main leaders of the political movement that lead to the first democratic constitution of Denmark, the June Constitution of 1849. He was much engaged in Scandinavism and in the Schleswig-Holstein Question. He refused to become a minister because he, unlike the government, favoured the division of Schleswig.

Together with Jens Vahl and Salomon Drejer, Schouw was the publisher of Flora Danica fasc. 38. In 1841, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Joakim Frederik Schouw's tomb at Assistens Kirkegård, Copenhagen

Sources[edit]

Christensen, Carl (1932) Joakim Frederik Schouw, pp. 100–103 in: Meisen, V. Prominent Danish Scientists through the Ages. University Library of Copenhagen 450th Anniversary. Levin & Munksgaard, Copenhagen.

References[edit]

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