It is difficult to underestimate Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's influence on the life sciences at the turn of the nineteenth century. Nonetheless, much of his work remains untranslated from German into English. I have thus embarked on translating some of Blumenbach's works, especially those that I have found to be significant for the development of biology.
Another Humanities Fellow, Claire Sabel, and I have recently completed a translation of his essay, "Über eine ungemein einfache Fortpflanzungsart," which was published in the Göttingischen Magazins der Wissenschaften und Litteratur in 1781. I rencently gave a talk on this essay and argued that the organism that Blumenbach investigates, the Conferva fontinalis, could be considered a proto-model organism (see details in the footer). This material will serve as the basis for an article that develops the argument and related material more fully.
I have also begun to translate the first version of Blumenbach's famous Bildungstrieb essay from 1780. This essay is remarkable for being a (if not the) turning point in the eighteenth-century epigenesis vs. preformation debate.
Finally, I also have working versions of each of the Prefaces to the twelve editions of the Handbuch der Naturgeschichte, one of most successful works of natural history in its time.
This translation work would not be possible without the excellent Blumenbach bibliography compiled by Claudia Kroke et al.
"Poetic Botany" signifies a movement in the late eighteenth century wherein botany became the subject matter of poetry. The originator and eminent represenative of this movement was Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles), who published The Botanic Garden, A Poem in 1791.
Darwin's magnificent work serves as an entry point for the study of several related questions, including the development of botany, industrialization, empire, gender, politics, the relationship between art and science, and more.
With the support of my Mellon Fellowship, the research I am conducting on poetic botany will guide the creation of a digital exhibition that connects the historical issues surrounding this movement with the contemporary resources of The New York Botanical Garden.