Johann Gerhard König

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Johann Gerhard König (29 November 1728 – 26 June 1785) was a Baltic German botanist and physician. He was born near Kreutzburg in Polish Livonia, which is now Krustpils in Latvia.[1] He was a private pupil of Carl Linnaeus in 1757, and lived in Denmark from 1759 to 1767. From 1773 to 1785, he worked as a naturalist for the Nawab of Arcot in India. He was in Tharangambadi (Tranquebar) with the Danish trade mission from 1773 to 1785.[2][3][4]

In 1773, he received the Doctor's degree in absentia from the University of Copenhagen. As naturalist to the Nawab of Arcot he embarked on a voyage to the mountains north of Madras and to Ceylon, a description of which was later published in a Danish scientific journal. In 1778, König was transferred to a post with the British East India Company where he remained until his death, undertaking several scientific journeys and working with notable scientists like William Roxburgh, Johan Christian Fabricius and Sir Joseph Banks. Perhaps the most notable of those journeys was to Siam and the Malacca Straits in 1778-80, in this period he spent several months studying the flora and fauna in Phuket.[5] He met Patrick Russell who arrived in India in 1782 at Tranquebar and remained in constant communication.

He made trips to the hills near Vellore and Ambur and in 1776 a trip to the Nagori hills with George Campbell. In 1784, he visited Claud Russell at Vizagapatnam on his way to Calcutta. On the way he suffered from dysentery and Roxburgh who was at Samalkota visited him. He however did not recover and died at Jagrenatporumin Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh in 1785. He bequeathed his papers to Sir Joseph Banks.[3]

He described many plants used in Indian Medicine and kept notes on other aspects of natural history including the termites of southern India and the collection and use of their alates as food.[6]

The plant genus Koenigia was named for him by Linnaeus, as was a species of curry-leaf tree Murraya koenigii.


  1. ^ Various sources give his birthplace as Ungernhof (a.k.a. Lemenen), a manor belonging to the estate of Kreutzburg/Krustpils. Krustpils, which is on the north bank of the Daugava, is now part of the city of Jēkabpils, which was then Jakobstadt in Courland on the south bank. Rao (1998) places his birth in "Lenaenen in Courland (Denmark)" - that, however, being clearly erroneous
  2. ^ Rottbøll, Christen Friis (1783). Beskrivelse af nogle Planter fra de malabariske Kyster, Til Pisoniæ buxifoliæ Beskrivelse, som Side 537 endes, følger følgende Oplysning, som et nyelig med Skibet Tranquebar fra Ostindien af Hr. Dr. Kønig mig tilsendt Exemplar [Description of some Plants from the Malabar Coasts ...]. Proceedings of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters (in Danish).
  3. ^ a b Rao, B S Subba (1998) History of Entomology in India. Institution of Agricultural Technologists.
  4. ^ Hagen, H.A. (1862). Bibliotheca entomologica. Die Litteratur über das ganze Gebiet der Entomologie, bis zum Jahre 1862. 1. p. 428.
  5. ^ Gerolamo Emilio Gerini (1905). Historical Retrospect of Junkceylon Island (PDF). Journal of the Siam Society. pp. 32–41.
  6. ^ Fletcher, T.B. (1921). "Koenig's paper on South Indian termites". Proceedings of the Fourth Entomological Meeting. pp. 312–333.
  7. ^ IPNI.  J.Koenig.

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Preceded by
Position established in 1778
Naturalist to the H.E.I.C. at Madras
Succeeded by
Patrick Russell