Natural history

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Natural history , also known as natural history , is a collective historical name for areas of knowledge that are usually assigned to several different sciences, predominantly natural sciences . This includes research into living beings ( biology , including botany and zoology ) as well as mineralogy , paleontology , ecology and, in some cases, archeology , geology with petrology , astronomy , physics and meteorology . Researchers of these areas of knowledge are called naturalists .

Natural history in the 18th and 19th centuries

Tables of natural history from the Cyclopaedia published in 1728 , or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences

In general, a person concerned with natural history was considered a natural scientist , naturalist or naturalist . This was essentially an amateurish lay occupation, as practiced by Goethe , for example , and not a profession. In the 18th century and well into the 19th century , the term natural history was used to denote all scientific studies as opposed to political or ecclesiastical history. This comprehensive term is still used today for some museums and societies. Traditionally, the predominantly descriptive natural history was opposed to the more explanatory natural philosophy .

Characteristics of natural history are:

  • The idea of ​​a "chain of beings": God created the greatest possible number of different things. These form a continuous sequence (especially with regard to their morphology) so that middle links can be found between all distinct beings.
  • Natural history has no temporalized concept of development. “If one speaks of“ development ”, one means either in the sense of the Latin evolvere literally the development or development of already existing structures or the realization of predetermined possibilities, but not the emergence of something unforeseeable (as in the modern Darwinian evolutionary biology).

Well-known natural history museums are the Natural History Museum in London, the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, the Natural History Museum in Vienna and the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris.

See also


  • Albrecht von Haller : Onomatologia medica completa ... or Complete Lexicon ... of Natural History , Frankfurt am Main , 1758.
  • Wolf Lepenies : The End of Natural History. Change of cultural self-evident in the science of the 18th and 19th centuries , Hanser, Munich / Vienna 1976, ISBN 3-446-12185-4 .
  • Herbert H. Egglmaier: Natural history. Science and subject . Academic printing and Publishing house, Graz 1988, ISBN 3-201-01448-6 .
  • Brian W. Ogilvie: The Science of Describing. Natural History in Renaissance Europe , The University of Chicago Press, Chicago / London 2006, ISBN 0-226-62087-5 .
  • Lorenz Oken : About the value of natural history, especially for the education of Germans. (Academic speech) Friedrich Frommann, Jena 1809 (online) .

Web links

Commons : Natural history  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Natural history  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Arthur O. Lovejoy The Great Chain of Beings. Story of a thought . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1993, ISBN 3-518-28704-4 ; engl. Original edition: The great chain of being. A study of the history of an idea , 1936.
  2. Wolf Lepenies : The end of natural history. Change of cultural self-evident in the sciences of the 18th and 19th centuries . Hanser, Munich 1976, ISBN 3-446-12185-4 , here: p. 45.