Adelbert von Chamisso

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Adelbert von Chamisso, 1831

Adelbert von Chamisso (born January 30, 1781 at Boncourt Castle near Ante, Châlons-en-Champagne , France ; † August 21, 1838 in Berlin ; originally Louis Charles Adélaïde de Chamissot de Boncourt ) was a German naturalist and poet of French origin. Its official botanical author's abbreviation is “ Cham. ".

Although French was Chamisso's mother tongue, he created significant works in the German language. The best known are Peter Schlemihl's wondrous story (1814) and the poem Das Riesenspielzeug (1831) about Nideck Castle in Alsace . His Journey Around the World (1836) is again attracting increasing attention.

Robert Fischer describes him in his biography as an “early citizen of Europe” who “experienced the contrasts of two nations and tried to unite them in his life”. “His turning to nature and the consistency with which he finally turned his inclination to his profession, the experiences of the world traveler as a participant in a Russian expedition to discover; The liberal views of the poet, who came from an old noble family, who kept an eye on social grievances until his last years and remained open to everything new, put his life, which ended more than 150 years ago, in an astonishingly topical light. "


Childhood and youth

Adelbert was born as the fourth son of seven children of Count Louis Marie de Chamissot at the family seat, Boncourt Castle in Champagne . Only his baptism date, January 31, 1781, as he himself wrote in his trip around the world , is considered certain .

In 1790, Adelbert's impoverished parents only left their ancestral castle after it had been cremated during the French Revolution and their property had been confiscated, and then in 1792 France. Fleeing from the revolutionary armies, they moved on through the Netherlands and southern Germany until they settled in Berlin in 1796, where the two older brothers took positions as private tutors . In Berlin, Chamisso was a pupil of the French grammar school founded by Huguenots in 1689 (Collège Français de Berlin) and in 1796 he became a page with Luise Friederike von Prussia in Berlin.

Military service and beginnings as a poet

Chamisso, smoking a pipe (drawing by F. C. Weiß)

From 1798 to 1807 Chamisso did military service in the Prussian army. In 1801 he became a lieutenant ; he called himself Ludwig von Chamisso.

In the house of the banker Ephraim he met the 24-year-old compatriot and widow Cérès Duvernay and fell in love with her, but she only tolerated a brotherly and sisterly relationship.

From 1804 he published an almanac of the muses with the friends of the romantic group of poets " Nordsternbund " and from then on called himself Adelbert von Chamisso. This group included Julius Eduard Hitzig , Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué , Karl August Varnhagen von Ense , his sister Rosa Maria and Friedrich Wilhelm Neumann . He had a platonic friendship with Rosa Maria Varnhagen von Ense; they botanized together and translated the old French poetry of the troubadours .

In 1805 he was transferred with his regiment to Hamelin , where in the following year he witnessed the humiliation of the surrender of the Hamelin Fortress to Napoleon Bonaparte's troops, made possible by treason . Subsequently, von Chamisso traveled to France as a prisoner on word of honor, until he finally resigned from the army in 1807 (some sources speak of 1806).

In 1807 Adelbert von Chamisso was accepted as a Freemason in "the Lodge in Châlons-sur-Marne " . He probably visited Masonic lodges in Berlin , but - contrary to other information - did not become a member there.

From 1810 he stayed for two years in France and Switzerland , where he belonged to Madame de Staël's circle of friends . Here, in Coppet Castle , he began to turn to the natural sciences, first of all to botany. In 1813 he returned to Berlin. Here he was one of ETA Hoffmann's literary friends , the “Serapion Brothers” .

Chamisso as a naturalist

Schlemihl travels to the North Pole (caricature E. T. A. Hoffmanns on Chamisso's research trip in 1816)

From 1815 to 1818 he took part in a circumnavigation of the world as a scientist ("titular scholar") (see Rurik expedition ). This expedition of the Russian captain of German-Baltic descent Otto von Kotzebue , son of the poet August von Kotzebue , financed by the Russian Chancellor of the Exchequer, Count Nikolai Petrovich Rumjanzew , explored Polynesia , Micronesia and Hawaii in the Pacific and was supposed to find the legendary Northwest Passage . Chamisso mapped large parts of the coast of Alaska , recorded the flora of Alaska (the newly discovered Chamisso Island was named after him) and described the habits of the Eskimos and Aleutians . (Curiosity: The parka garment appears for the first time in German in his book Reise um die Welt . It is a lined cape with a hood for the Chukchi people .) He criticized the Russian colonial rule there . In Hawaii and Micronesia he made unprejudiced, humanistic depictions of the local people. At the time of the Greek War of Liberation, he revealed himself to be an ardent advocate of philhellenism in several emphatic ballads . His herbaria and accompanying travel notes were purchased from the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences .

After the university awarded him an honorary doctorate and he became second custodian at the Royal Herbarium (on the site of today's Kleistpark ), Chamisso married Antonie Piaste (1800–1837), foster daughter of his friend Hitzig, in 1819. The children of this marriage were Ludwig Deodatus Ernst (1820-1894), Max (* 1822), Adélaide (* 1827), Johanna (* 1829), Adolph (* 1830), Hermann (* 1832), Adelbert (* 1835) . In the same year 1819 he was elected with the academic surname Jason VIII as a member of the Scholars Academy Leopoldina . He worked with Carl Wilhelm Eysenhardt and, together with him, is the first descriptor of various zoological taxa. They first described the nereids Nereis heteropoda Chamisso & Eysenhardt in 1821 and the spotted worm sea ​​cucumber Synapta maculata Chamisso & Eysenhardt in 1821. After Schlechtendals left in 1833, he became first curator and remained so until shortly before his death. With this position his financial future was secured. At the suggestion of Alexander von Humboldt , Chamisso was elected a full member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin on June 28, 1835 .

Chamisso published his first volume of poetry with older poems in 1831. He seldom wrote new lyrics. In 1833 he wrote the poem The Right Barber . In 1837 he published his previous travel studies on the Hawaiian language. With his socially critical leaflet poem The Old Washerwoman (in the second version) he collected donations in 1838 for “Mother Schulz”, a Berlin woman in need, and received 150 Reichstaler.

Death and grave

The grave of honor of Adelbert von Chamisso in Berlin-Kreuzberg

Adelbert von Chamisso died of lung cancer one year after the death of his wife on August 21, 1838 at the age of 57 in Berlin . His testamentary provisions for burial and grave read:

“I want to be sunk into the earth without any pomp and in silence. Only a few friends may see where my ashes are, and no one else bother. If the place is to be marked, a tree may do it, at most a small stone slab. In any case, I forbid any grave inscription other than my name, as well as the date of my birth and death. "

Chamisso's specifications were met. Julius Eduard Hitzig arranged for a funeral among close family and friends. It took place on August 23, 1838 in Cemetery III of the Jerusalem and New Churches in front of the Hallesches Tor . Chamisso rests there by the side of his wife Antonie, who died in 1837. Only a simple, small, stone inscription plate serves as a marker on the grave field, which surrounds a post-chain border.

By decision of the Berlin Senate , the last resting place of Adelbert von Chamisso (grave location 331-38-1) has been dedicated as an honorary grave of the State of Berlin since 1952 . The dedication was extended in 2016 by the now usual period of twenty years.


60 Pf - special stamp of the Bundespost Berlin (1981) for the 200th birthday
Memorial plaque on the house at Friedrichstrasse 235 in Berlin-Kreuzberg
Memorial plaque on the house at Kleistpark, Grunewaldstrasse 6-7, in Berlin-Schöneberg

During the Rurik expedition , Otto von Kotzebue named the Chamisso Island in the northern part of the Bering Strait after Adelbert von Chamisso. In his honor, the genera Chamissoa Kunth from the plant family of the foxtail family (Amaranthaceae), Chamissonia Endl. from the plant family of the evening primrose family , Adelbertia Meisn. from the family of the black mouth plants (Melastomataceae) as well as Chamissoniophila Brand (today a synonym for Antiphytum DC. ex Meisn. ) from the plant family of the predatory plants . Furthermore, over 150 plant species and some animal species were named in his honor. Charles Darwin called him and Otto von Kotzebue rightly excellent naturalists. In 2002 the asteroid (24711) Chamisso was named after the poet.

Chamissoplatz, named after him on April 24, 1890, is located in Berlin-Kreuzberg . On January 31, 2006, a memorial plaque for Chamisso was unveiled at Friedrichstrasse 235 where his house stood until 1908. The hockey club Real von Chamisso from Berlin-Kreuzberg, founded in 2000, is named after Adelbert von Chamisso .

The only literary prize to date for German-language migrant literature bears his name. With the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize of the Robert Bosch Stiftung has been awarded since 1985 not German in Germany Authors native language. In 2010 the world's first Chamisso Society was founded in Kunersdorf (Brandenburg, Märkisch-Oderland district) in the so-called Musenhof. In the Musenhof there is also an exhibition on the life and work of Chamisso. Chamisso wrote Peter Schlemihl's wondrous story in the summer of 1813 during a stay at Kunersdorf Castle. He was friends with the family who owned von Friedland and von Itzenplitz .


  • Adelbert's fable , 1806
  • Fortunati lucky caps and wishful hats , 1806
  • The right barber , 1806 (after Johann Peter Hebels The barber boy from Segringen )
  • Memoir of the events of the surrender of Hameln (1808)
  • Peter Schlemihl's miraculous story , Nuremberg 1814 ( digitized and full text in the German text archive )
    • Setting to music by Peter Ronnefeld, Peter Schlehmihl , ballet in three parts, 1955
  • Comments and views of a voyage of discovery , 1821
  • with Carl Wilhelm Eysenhardt: De animalibus quibusdam e classe Vermium Linnaeana, in circumnavigatione terrae, auspicante Comite N. Romanzoff, duce Ottone de Kotzebue, annis 1815-1818 peracta, observatis. Fasciculus secundus, reliquos vermes continens. Nova Acta Acad. Leop.-Carol. 10, 2, 1821, pp. 343-374 ( Textarchiv - Internet Archive ).
  • Investigation of a peat bog near Greifswald and a view of the island of Rügen . 1824 ( urn : nbn: de: gbv: 9-g-4890871 , Digital Library Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania)
  • About the peat bogs near Colberg, Gnageland and Swinemünde , 1825 ( urn : nbn: de: gbv: 9-g-4890869 , Digital Library Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania)
  • The Sun Brings It Out (Ballad), 1827
  • Salas y Gomez (Ballad), 1829
  • Women's love and life , song cycle, Berlin 1830
  • Songs . In: Franz Kugler: Sketchbook. Reimer, Berlin 1830 ( urn : nbn: de: hbz: 061: 2-1374 , University and State Library Düsseldorf ).
  • The giant toy , 1831
  • Poems , Leipzig 1831
  • The women of Winsperg , 1831
  • as publisher: Der deutsche Musenalmanach , since 1832 (together with Gustav Schwab )
  • Journey around the world in the years 1815-1818 (diary), 1836 ( e-text )
  • About the Hawaiian Language , 1837 ( )

See also


Marble bust in Berlin's Monbijoupark by Julius Moser (1888)
  • Agnes Derjanecz: The motif of the doppelganger in German romanticism and in Russian realism: ETA Hoffmann, Chamisso, Dostojewskij. Tectum, Marburg 2003. (= Diplomica; 7) ISBN 3-8288-8563-2 .
  • Elisabeth Ehrlich: The French element in Chamisso's poetry. Ebering, Berlin 1932 (= Germanic Studies; 118).
  • Adalbert Elschenbroich:  Chamisso, de Boncourt, Louis Charles Adélaïde, called Adelbert von Chamisso. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 3, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1957, ISBN 3-428-00184-2 , pp. 190-192 ( digitized version ).
  • Michael Fisch : I (without a shadow) could not jump over the gap «. On Adelbert von Chamisso's wonderful story of Peter Schlemihl. In: Ders., »The world knows me so that it will forgive me . Essays on Adelbert von Chamisso (1781–1838), Paul Ernst (1866–1933) and Hubert Fichte (1935–1986). Berlin: Weidler 2015, pp. 7–32. (Contributions to transcultural science. Volume 1.)
  • Michael Fisch : It all comes back, the good, the bad, the bad luck and the luck. About the outstanding dialogue between Adelbert von Chamisso and Jacques Derrida . In: Ders., "The world knows me so that it will forgive me". Essays on Adelbert von Chamisso (1781–1838), Paul Ernst (1866–1933) and Hubert Fichte (1935–1986). Berlin: Weidler 2015, pp. 33–50. (Contributions to transcultural science. Volume 1.)
  • Robert Fischer : Adelbert von Chamisso. Cosmopolitan, naturalist and poet. Klopp, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-7817-0575-7 .
  • Society for interregional cultural exchange e. V., ed .: With the eyes of the stranger. Adelbert von Chamisso - poet, scientist, world traveler. Kreuzberg-Museum, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-9809767-0-X .
  • Matthias Glaubrecht , Nils Seethaler , Barbara Teßmann, & Katrin Koel-Abt, 2013. The potential of biohistory: Re-discovering Adelbert von Chamisso's skull of an Aleut collected during the “Rurik” Expedition 1815–1818 in Alaska. Zoosystematics and Evolution 89 (2): 317-336.
  • Kej Hielscher et al. Renate Hücking: Plant hunter. In distant worlds in search of paradise. Piper, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-492-04424-7 .
  • Herbert Hopfgartner: Adelbert Chamisso: Revolutionary or Biedermann? The song circle “Women's love and life” in socio-cultural discourse. University of Warsaw, Studies in German Studies (Volume XXXVII, edited by Lech Kolago) Warsaw 2008, ISSN  0208-4597 .
  • Peter Lahnstein: Adelbert von Chamisso. The Prussian from France. List, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-471-78030-0 .
  • Beatrix Langner : The wild European. Adelbert von Chamisso. Matthes & Seitz , Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-88221-889-3 .
  • Jacob Achilles Mähly:  Chamisso, Adelbert von . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 4, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1876, pp. 97-102.
  • Gisela Menza: Adelbert von Chamissos "Journey around the world with the Romanzoffischen discovery expedition in the years 1815-1818". Attempt to define the work as a document of the transition from late Romanticism to the pre-realistic Biedermeier period. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1978, ISBN 3-261-02482-8 .
  • René-Marc Pille: Adelbert from Chamisso vu de France. 1805-1840. Genèse et reception d'une image. CNRS Ed., Paris 1993, ISBN 2-222-04736-6 .
  • Kurt Schleucher: Adelbert von Chamisso. Stapp, Berlin 1988 (= Prussian Heads, 23; literature), ISBN 3-87776-172-0 .
  • Jürgen Schwann: From “Faust” to “Peter Schlemihl”. Coherence and continuity in the work of Adelbert von Chamissos. Narr, Tübingen 1984 (= Mannheim contributions to linguistics and literary studies; 5), ISBN 3-87808-482-X .
  • Karl Siegen: Adelbert von Chamisso. Biographical introduction in A. v. Ch.s all works. 4 volumes in 1 book. Gustav Fock , Leipzig 1900.
  • Karl Siegen: Adelbert von Chamisso. Biographical introduction in A. v. Ch.s all seals. 2 volumes in 1 book. Max Hesse, Leipzig undated (approx. 1903), pp. 5–22.
  • Harald Weinrich : Chamisso, the Chamisso authors and globalization. Many cultures - one language. Robert Bosch Foundation , Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-922934-85-4 .
  • Robert Bosch Foundation : Chamisso. Many cultures - one language. October 2013, No. 9, 35 S. Chamisso. Many cultures - one language. October 2013, No. 9, 35 p. 9 Robert Bosch Stiftung, October 2013, accessed on July 18, 2015
  • Michael Ewert: "But you drive like a shot cannonball across the earth ..." - spatial experience and representation in Adelbert von Chamisso's "Journey around the world" . In: Georg Forster Studies , XX (2015), pp. 113–127.

Web links

Commons : Adelbert von Chamisso  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Adelbert von Chamisso  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Werner Feudel: Adelbert von Chamisso: biography, life and work . Leipzig 1988, ISBN 3-379-00341-7
  2. ^ Robert Fischer: Adelbert von Chamisso. Cosmopolitan, naturalist and poet. Klopp, Berlin 1990, p. 15, ISBN 3-7817-0575-7
  3. Eugen Lennhoff, Oskar Posner, Dieter A. Binder: Internationales Freemaurerlexikon. Revised and expanded new edition of the 1932 edition, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7766-2161-3
  4. ^ Roger Dufraisse: Adelbert von Chamisso et Louis de la Foye. Contribution à l'étude des relations intellectuelles franco-allemands à l'époque napoléonienne. In: Europe in Transition 1750–1850. Edited by D. Albrecht, K. O. Aretin, W. Schulze, Munich, 1995, p. 161.
  5. See Adelbert von Chamisso: A titular scholar on a voyage of discovery. ( Memento from October 4, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Podcast of the radio station Bayern 2 from the series radioZeitreisen from November 18, 2011.
  6. See Gilbert Heß: Adelbert von Chamissos Greek poetry. In: Ders., Elena Agazzi and Elisabeth Décultot: Graecomania. European philhellenism. Berlin u. a .: Walter de Gruyter 2009 (= Classicist-Romantic Art (t) dreams; Volume 1), pp. 235–259.
  7. News about botanical institutions, collecting, etc. In: Flora or Botanische Zeitung , New Series 1st Jg., 1st Volume, Regensburg 1843, p. 246
  8. ^ Members of the previous academies. Louis Charles Adelaide (called Adalbert) from Chamisso. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences , accessed on March 7, 2015 .
  9. Karin Dittmar, Doris Tüsselmann: Adelbert von Chamisso - Commemoration for the 175th anniversary of death . On the website of the “Association for the History of Berlin”, 2013; accessed on March 31, 2019.
  10. ^ Hans-Jürgen Mende : Lexicon of Berlin burial places . Pharus-Plan, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-86514-206-1 , p. 240. Karin Dittmar, Doris Tüsselmann: Adelbert von Chamisso - Commemoration for the 175th anniversary of death . On the website of the “Association for the History of Berlin”, 2013; accessed on March 31, 2019.
  11. Honorary graves of the State of Berlin (as of November 2018) . (PDF, 413 kB) Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, p. 14; accessed on March 31, 2019. Recognition and further preservation of graves as honorary graves of the State of Berlin . (PDF, 205 kB). Berlin House of Representatives, printed matter 17/3105 of July 13, 2016, p. 1 and Annex 2, p. 2; accessed on March 31, 2019.
  12. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names . Extended Edition. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin, Free University Berlin Berlin 2018.
  13. Silvia Fichtner: Society is dedicated to Chamisso. In: Märkische Oderzeitung. April 18, 2010, accessed October 2, 2013 .
  14. ^ Robert Bosch Foundation ( Memento from July 21, 2015 in the Internet Archive )