Georg Forster

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Johann Georg Adam Forster (November 27, 1754[2] – January 10, 1794) was a German naturalist, ethnologist, travel writer, journalist, and revolutionary. At an early age, he accompanied his father on several scientific expeditions, including James Cook's second voyage to the Pacific. His report from that journey, A Voyage Round the World, contributed significantly to the ethnology of the people of Polynesia and remains a respected work. As a result of the report Forster was admitted to the Royal Society at the early age of twenty-two and came to be considered one of the founders of modern scientific travel literature.

After returning to continental Europe, Forster turned toward academia. He traveled to Paris to seek out a discussion with the American revolutionary Benjamin Franklin in 1777. He taught natural history at the Collegium Carolinum in Kassel (1778–1784), and later at Academy of Vilna (Vilnius University) (1784–1787). He then (1788) became head librarian at the University of Mainz. Most of his scientific work during this time consisted of essays on botany and ethnology, but he also prefaced and translated many books about travels and explorations, including a German translation of Cook's diaries.

Forster was a central figure of the Enlightenment in Germany, and corresponded with most of its adherents, including his close friend Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. His ideas and personality influenced Alexander von Humboldt, one of the great scientists of the 19th century. When the French took control of Mainz in 1792, Forster became one of the founders of the Jacobin Club there and went on to play a leading role in the Mainz Republic, the earliest republican state in Germany. During July 1793 and while he was in Paris as a delegate of the young Mainz Republic, Prussian and Austrian coalition forces regained control of the city and Forster was declared an outlaw. Unable to return to Germany and separated from his friends and family, he died in Paris of illness in early 1794.


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