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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Roots of Naturalism

I was born in the bicentennial year of Goethe's heritage. When I discovered this eerie accident of birth, I was deeply involved in studying the writings and life of the spirit, ideas, the most famous man from my German heritage. The distant shared year of birth sent a thrill up my spine. Since that time I've enjoyed learning about Goethe's gift of life -- his "art of living" , and find so very many similarities and familial threads that speak to the value of knowing one's heritage.

Goethe was a writer, philosopher, natural scientist, family man, rebel against poor community administration, a lover of education over revolution -- and he loved to laugh and enjoy life with people he cared about.

This article will be an ongoing log of my discoveries about Goethe's life and legacy as i write about his life story...his epoch. Born in 1749 and living richly until 1832, Goethe witnessed the French Revolution, the uncovering of Pompeii, the opening of the new world via the U.S.A....and many scientific, artistic and cultural twists and turns. Enjoy walking into the dawn of discovery as we explore this highpoint in German cultural life.

Goethe in Weimar Weimar, Germany, home of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...and other cultural pioneers

Hostel information
Weimar, Thuringia (Thüringen), Germany

Nearest Places:

  • Jena (19 Km / 12 mi.)
  • Erfurt (21 Km / 13 mi.)
  • Bad Sulza (25 Km / 15 mi.)
  • Bad Blankenburg (33 Km / 20 mi.)
  • Bad Kösen (33 Km / 21 mi.)
  • Heldrungen (37 Km / 23 mi.)
  • Schwarzburg (38 Km / 24 mi.)
  • Eisenberg (40 Km / 25 mi.)
  • Ilmenau (43 Km / 27 mi.)
  • Grafenroda (44 Km / 27 mi.)

    The educated world knows Goethe primarily as the author/poet of Faust, Werther, and Wilhelm Meister, but he is not generally acknowledged for his scientific achievements:
    • had a genus of plants (Goethea) and a mineral (goethite) named for him;
    • who coined and first used the word morphology;
    • who contributed to the understanding of the physiology of color;
    • who rediscovered and described the intermaxillary bone in man,
    • propounded the vertebral theory of the skull,
    • formulated a concept in botanical morphology that persists to this day;
    • who discovered the volcanic origin of a mountain;
    • who established the first system of weather stations;
    • who made the first systematic classification of minerals and was among the first to use the comparative method in biology;
    • and who came close to achieving the greatest concept in biology— the theory of organic evolution and the descent of man.
    Goethe published a journal about his botanical explorations from 1817 to 1824. Occupying a central position is the most famous and lasting of his scientific writings -- the essay on the metamorphosis of plants an essay which is today considered one of the minor classics of botany.

    Toward the end of his life Goethe wrote, For more than a half century I have been known as a poet, in my own country and undoubtedly also abroad; or at any rate I have been permitted to pass for one. But the fact that I have busily occupied myself with Nature in all her physical and organic phenomena, constantly and passionately pursuing seriously formulated studies--this is not so generally known; still less has it been accorded any attention.

    Goethe's Botanical Writings
    Translated by Bertha Mueller
    Ox Bow Press, 1989
    ISBN 0-918024-68-4

    For more articles about NATURE & KIDS

    Young Birders Get Serious About Birding Fun
    The Squirrel Family 0 Backyard Nature Safari
    Hamsters are rodents and cuddly pets
    Kids Learning Links
    Buddy's Diner (for the birds)
    Bird Profiles for Young Naturalists