13 European Enlightenment in India: an Episode of Anglo-German Collaboration in the Natural Sciences on the Coromandel Coast, Late 1700s–Early 1800s

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Abstract

The role of the first naturalists appointed by the East India Company in the later 1700s has been presented as essentially a subsidiary one – that of agents at the periphery with a primary duty to supply specimens to the scientific community of the metropolis (and especially its dominant figure, Sir Joseph Banks) rather than involving themselves in interpretation: the role is one that Banks himself made explicit, insisting on it on more than one occasion. Independently of this axis, an invaluable local relationship developed between the Company men (notably Patrick Russell and William Roxburgh) and naturalists from the German mission at the Danish colony of Tranquebar (especially Johann Gerhard König, Christoph Samuel John, and Johann Peter Rottler). The strong bonds of friendship that developed between these pioneer collectors – all of them physicians by training – on the Coromandel coast produced a mutually beneficial milieu in which continental and British practice mingled and flowered, ushering in the heyday of field collecting in British India.


Naturalists in the Field

Collecting, Recording and Preserving the Natural World from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-First Century

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