S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Eschscholtz, Prof Johann Friedrich (zoology, botany)

Born: 1 November 1793, Tartu, Estonia.
Died: 7 May 1831, Tartu, Estonia.

Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, Russian physician and naturalist, qualified as Doctor of Medicine (MD) at the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia) in 1815. From 1815 to 1818 he accompanied the Russian expedition in search of a north-east passage to the Pacific Ocean and around the world, led by Otto von Kotzebue of the Russian Navy, with L.A. von Chamisso* as naturalist. Eschscholtz's account of the expedition (in German) was published in Vienna in 1825. He also published a book on the comparative anatomy of vertebrates in 1819. Meanwhile he had been appointed as professor of anatomy at Dorpat in 1819, and as director of the Zoological Cabinet in 1822. During the next four years he accompanied von Kotzebue on another expedition around the world, this time as naturalist. He collected insects, larger animals, and plants in California, the Aleutian Islands, South America and islands in the Pacific, including many new species. The expedition called at the Cape around June 1826, where he also collected some specimens. He wrote a review of the expedition's zoological collections (in English), which was published in von Kotzebue's A new voyage round the world in the years 1823, 24, 25 and 26 (London, 1830). He also compiled a zoological atlas (in German) based on the voyage, which appeared in 1829-1833. In addition he published some 26 papers between 1817 and 1835, in German, French and Latin. Most of his papers dealt with insects, and several of the early ones were published by l'Académie Impériale des Sciences de St Pétersbourg. In others he described new plants from California (1826) and a new genus of molluscs (1835).

Eschscholtz was appointed professor of anatomy and medicine at the University of Dorpat in 1828. Eschscholtz Bay, in the Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, was named after him, as was the plant genus Eschscholtzia (Californian poppy). He was a member of the Natural History Society of Moscow.

List of sources:
Codd, L.E. & Gunn, M. Additional biographical notes on plant collectors in southern Africa. Bothalia, 1985, Vol. 15, pp. 631-654.

Debus, A.G. (Ed.) World who's who in science. Chicago: Marquis, 1968.

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

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

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Compiled by: C. Plug