S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Konig, Mr Johann Gerhard (plant collection)

Born: 29 November 1728, Krustpils, Latvia.
Died: 26 June 1785, Jagrenatporum (now Orissa), India.

Johann Gerhard Konig (or Koenig), physician and naturalist, was a pupil of the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1757. From 1759 to 1767 he lived in Denmark. The Danish government employed him for more than two years to study the grasses, lichens and seaweeds of Iceland. In 1767 he was appointed medical officer to the Danish mission in Tranquebar, south-eastern India. On his way there he spent from 1 to 28 April 1768 at the Cape, collecting plants on Table Mountain and other areas near Cape Town. Linnaeus had given him a letter of introduction to Governer Rijk Tulbagh, who arranged that one of the Dutch East India Company's gardeners, either J.A. Auge* or Gessell, accompanied him as a guide.

In February 1769 Konig sent the plants he had collected at the Cape and other places visited on his outward journey to Linnaeus and to G.C. Oeder, Professor of Botany at Copenhagen. In a letter to Linnaeus he described 60 of the more interesting species, 35 of them from the Cape, and wrote with great enthusiasm about the Cape flora. Linnaeus described several new species from his collection in 1771. Konig also corresponded with Joseph Banks* in London and sent him Indian plants. He was awarded a medical degree in absentia by the University of Copenhagen in 1773, while residing in India. He published De remediorum indigenorum ad morbes cuivis regioni endemicos expuguandos efficacia in 1773. As it dealt with effective indigenous remedies for indigenous diseases it may have been his thesis for the medical degree.

In 1778 Konig was transferred to the (British) East India Company as naturalist at Madras, a post he held to his death. He undertook several scientific journeys, among others to Thailand and the Malacca Straits, and worked with notable scientists such as Dr William Roxburgh*. He contributed two articles on plants from the East Indies to Observationes botanicae by J.J. Retzius, in 1783 and 1791. The genus Koenigia of Indian plants was named after him by Linnaeus. Several species also carry his name. His unpublished manuscripts were left to Joseph Banks.

List of sources:
Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Konig, Johann Gerhard. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Gerhard_König on 2018-3-29.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

World who's who in science. Chicago: Marquis, 1968.

Compiled by: C. Plug