The Martinus Master
April 22, 1839
Today is the birthday of the botanist August Wilhelm Eichler.
Wilhelm was a German botanist, and he developed one of the first widely used natural systems of plant classification. Most importantly, Wilhelm's work created the first classification system based on evolution.
In his work, Wilhelm divided the plant kingdom into non-floral plants and floral plants.
For most of his career, Wilhelm worked tirelessly as a private assistant to the naturalist Karl Friedrich Philipp von Martinus.
Martinus had traveled to Brazil and collected over 20,000 specimens. Martinus spent the final three decades of his life documenting his findings in a book called Flora Brasiliensis, which Wilhelm helped edit. Generally speaking, a Flora is a book describing all plants from a set geographic area.
When Martinus died in 1868, Wilhelm carried on the work of Flora Brasiliensis unassisted. It was a labor of love. After Wilhelm died, botanist Ignatius Urban continued with the project until its completion.
Today, Wilhelm Eichler Strasse (Street) in Dresden is named in his honor.
It was August 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 Wilhelm, I ended up on the Berlin Botanic Garden website.
Wilhelm was the director of the Botanic Garden from 1879 to 1887. In one of the Botanic Garden's annual reports, they shared this interesting tidbit regarding Wilhelm's 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."