A Tireless Botanist

#OTD It's the birthday of August Wilhelm Eichler, (born April 22, 1839, Neukirchen, Hesse, Ger.—died March 2, 1887, Berlin).

Eichler was a German botanist and he developed one of the first widely used natural systems of plant classification. Most importantly, it was the first classification system based on evolution. In addition, Eichler divided the plant kingdom into non-floral plants and floral plants.

Eichler spent many years of his life working tirelessly as a private assistant to the naturalist Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martinus. Martinus had traveled to Brazil and collected over 20,000 specimens. He spent the final three decades of his life documenting his findings in a book called Flora Brasiliensis which Eichler helped edit. Generally speaking, a Flora is a book describing all plants from a set geographic area. When Martinus died in 1868, Eichler carried on the work of Flora Brasiliensis unassisted. It was a labor of love. After Eichler died, botanist Ignatius Urban continued on with the project until its completion.

Today, Wilhelm Eichler Strasse (Street) in Dresden is named in his honor.

Wilhelm Eichler who said,

"The felling of the first tree is the beginning of human civilization. The felling of the last is his end."

While researching August Wilhelm Eichler, I ended up on the Berlin Botanic Garden website. Eichler was the director of the Botanic Garden from 1879 to 1887. In one of their annual reports, they shared this interesting tidbit regarding the Eichler tenure in Berlin:

"This was an eventful time, with world’s fairs, the invention of electricity, and rapid industrialization. There is no question that the director of a botanic garden would have been preoccupied by such innovations, but a recent find has provided us with absolute proof that this was so. In the attic of a residential building that almost certainly once belonged to the Eichler family, a box of handwritten papers, galley proofs, herbarium material and correspondence was found... This legacy is currently being catalogued by Peter Hirsch."

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August Wilhelm Eichler
August Wilhelm Eichler