Traveling, collecting, translating at the University of Halle between 1780 and 1860
The project focuses on a very eventful time in the history of the University of Halle: during the decades 1780-1760, the university of Halle, marked by the epistemic system of the Enlightenment, turns into a modern university. Knowledge opens up global space and new information channels.
Establishment of global research perspective
The investigation begins with the appointment of Johann Reinhold Forster (1729-98) to a professorship in natural history and mineralogy at the University of Halle in 1780. Reinhold Forster had accompanied the Cook’s second circumnavigation of the globe from 1772-75 as a natural history expert, which in particular led him to explore the shores of New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific Ocean. His exceptional travel experience was a significant qualification for his appointment to Halle, which at the same time marks an important step in the internationalization of the university and its research programs.
The aim of this project is to pursue the establishment of global research perspectives in this period until the mid-19th century, focusing on the increasing scientific confrontation with the organization of research travels as well as the development of scientific networks useful for the gathering of information and the expansion of the collections.
This objective will be implemented in two subprojects.
Between empiricism and textual science
The first subproject deals with the work of Reinhold Forster in Halle. The focus is on his extremely extensive activities as publisher, translator and, above all, commentator on non-fictional travel reports and ethnographic literature. The once world-traveling field researcher emerges as a reading scientist, which raises questions about tense relationship between empirical and book based knowledge. To what extent did Forster develop a critical synthesis of experience and text knowledge? Which are his validity criteria in the analysis of travel reports and ethnographic literature? These questions will be at the center of the first project.
After the nature history
The second subproject will focus on the geographical extension of the university’s research spectrum within a discipline that emerged from the natural history of the Enlightenment epoch giving a decisive impetus to the global expansion of scientific research: Zoology. The focal point here is on the work of Hermann Burmeister (1807-1892), who occupied the Professorship of Zoology at the University of Halle from 1837 to 1861, directing its collection and undertaking two extensive South American expeditions between 1850-51 and 1856-60.
Publications & talks related to the project
In preparation: E. Décultot, J. Kittelmann, A. Thiele, I. Uhlig (ed.), Johann Reinhold und Georg Forster – Gesammelte Welten. Göttingen, Wallstein Verlag.
J. Kittelmann, Wechselwirkungen. Garten und Gartenbeschreibungen bei Georg Forster. In: Georg Forster. Der Weltreisende in Wörlitz. Katalog zur Ausstellung im Schloss Wörlitz. Ed. by F. Vorpahl. Munich 2019, pp. 36-45.
7 Sept. 2018: J. Kittelmann, Sammeln im Kollektiv. Die Briefnetzwerke der Forsters. Within the conference „Johann Reinhold und Georg Forster – Gesammelte Welten“. Organization: Dessau-Wörlitz-Kommission, Alexander von Humboldt-Professur für neuzeitliche Schriftkultur und europäischen Wissenstransfer und Kulturstiftung Dessau-Wörlitz. Location: Wörlitz
6 Sept. 2018: E. Décultot: Johann Reinhold und Georg Forster – Gesammelte Welten. Einführung. Within the conference „Johann Reinhold und Georg Forster – Gesammelte Welten“.Organization: Dessau-Wörlitz-Kommission, Alexander von Humboldt-Professur für neuzeitliche Schriftkultur und europäischen Wissenstransfer und Kulturstiftung Dessau-Wörlitz. Location: Wörlitz.
3 July 2018: I. Uhlig: Weltwissenschaft – Johann Reinhold Forster in Halle. Erste Überlegungen. Within the research colloquium of the Humboldt professorship. Location: Institut for German Studies, University of Halle.
7 June 2018: I. Uhlig, Weltwissenschaft. Johann Reinhold Forster in Halle. Within the advisory board meeting of the Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies. Location: Halle, IZEA.
6-8 Sept. 2018: International conference „Johann Reinhold und Georg Forster – Gesammelte Welten“. Organized by the Humboldt professorship (Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Décultot) in collaboration with the Dessau-Wörlitz-Kommission and the Kulturstiftung Dessau-Wörlitz. Location: Wörlitz.