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Nils Güttler

The Cosmoscope

Maps and their Users in 19th Century Plant Geography

545 pages, 79 illustrations
Format: 15,5 x 23,0
ISBN 978-3-8353-1429-0

The development and use of botanical distribution maps in the 19th century.

Located at the interface between the history of science, environment and media, »The Cosmoscope« sketches a long development leading from the first plant geographical maps. These emerged in the late 18th century in the circles surrounding Alexander von Humboldt and culminated in a mapping boom in the field of botany around one hundred years later. When did maps become indispensable for botanists? What had to happen before scientists realised that maps were more useful than texts when it came to observing associations? How did the medium change theories on the geography of plants and their ecology? Placing his main focus on the map user, Nils Güttler comes to a remarkable conclusion: botanists did not begin to study plant distribution on paper until a very late stage. The trend towards cartographic observation was forced ahead by institutions assumed to be situated at the periphery of science, e. g. cartographic publishing houses and nature research societies. In the interplay between popular and academic cultures of knowledge, a lively graphic discourse on plant geography arose, which has continued to shape our visual culture up until the present day.

Nils Güttler, born in 1980, is a research assistant at the Gotha Research Centre, University of Erfurt. He studied modern and contemporary history and modern German literature at the HU Berlin and the University of Uppsala. Winner of the sponsorship prize awarded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für die Geschichte der Medizin, Naturwissenschaft und Technik (German Society for the History of Medicine, Science and Technology, 2013).