Wilhelm Schimper

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Georg Heinrich Wilhelm Schimper (* August or September 1804 in Mannheim ; † October 1878 in Adwa , Ethiopia ) was a Baden , German naturalist , traveler and botanist . Its official botanical author's abbreviation is “ GWSchimp. "

Live and act

Wilhelm Schimper was born as the younger brother of Karl Friedrich Schimper . His mother Margarethe (Meta) was the daughter (baroness) of Freiherr Jobst Wilhelm von Furtenbach, the caretaker (Nuremberg government official) von Lauf; the father came from the Palatinate . The parents divorced in 1814; the father went into service in Russia, where he soon died. After an apprenticeship as an art turner , Wilhelm Schimper first became a soldier in Baden in order to be able to support his impoverished and sick mother. However, in 1828 he was given a longer vacation for further training. In Munich he studied natural history , was a draftsman and taxidermist for Louis Agassiz and is said to have drawn, according to Otto Volger (1822–1897), the geologist, mineralogist and Africa researcher, “the once famous now lost shed book” , as is reported , "Just as skillful and ingenious in the technical as his brother in the spiritual sphere".

Then, with the support of the Württemberg Natural History Travel Association , Schimper undertook a botanical collecting trip to Algiers in 1831 , about which he also wrote a book: " Reise nach Algier 1831-1832 " (Stuttgart 1834). Three years later (1834), again on behalf of the travel association, he went to Egypt , explored the Sinai and in 1836 settled in Abyssinia in northeast Africa.

He explored Upper Egypt , Petrean Arabia, the interior of Hijas and Abyssinia, and there won the favor of Dejazmach Wube Hayle Mariam of Tigray and Simen (known in European literature as Ubie of Tigray and Simen ) so much that he became the governor of the little ones Appointed province of Enticcho at Adwa. However, this high dignity in no way prevented Schimper from eagerly collecting plants. Dejazmach Wube married him to Mirritsit from a leading family related to Wube in the province of Adwa in Tigray, who bore him several children. Schimper took up a second residence in the Simen Mountains , the heartland of Wubes, and at that time was entrusted by the administration of the Jardin des plantes in Paris with a permanent scientific mission for Abyssinia. From here, Schimper supplied the Parisian and other natural history collections, including those in Berlin, with valuable contributions. Evidence is still preserved today, including in the collections of Rudolph Friedrich Hohenacker (1798–1874) and Joseph Gerhard Zuccarini .

On behalf of Dejazmach Wube, Schimper and his colleague Eduard Zander planned the Marienkirche in Däräsge , where Theodor II was crowned Ethiopian Emperor after his victory over Wube in the Battle of Däräsge in 1855.

Under Theodor II Schimper lost his governorship, but otherwise remained unmolested. It was only when Theodor got into war with England that he had to follow his master to the Magdala fortress and only regained his freedom after the victory of the British general Robert Napier and Theodor's death in 1868. Since then he has lived with his wife († 1869) in Adwa , where he died in October 1878.

The moss researcher Adalbert Geheeb (1842–1909), who was in correspondence with Wilhelm Schimper, reports in his book “ My memories of great natural scientists ” that he once received a shipment from him with the request to forward it to Prince Bismarck immediately to direct. “ It was only after a long time that Professor A. Braun reported to me, in response to my questioning , that that extensive supplement for Bismarck had contained Schimper's autobiography, which the great Kaiser Wilhelm found so interesting that he immediately had 1000 thalers sent to the author in Abyssinia. “ Schimper's autobiography is still lost today.

Another manuscript entitled " In Abÿssinien ", in which Schimper wrote down his observations during his research trips to Tigray in northern Ethiopia from 1864 to 1868, came into the possession of the British Museum in 1870 and is now kept in the British Library . This publication is available in the public domain and online.

Wilhelm Schimper has published various things, mostly in botanical and geological journals, also in "Petermanns Mitteilungen" . Its botanical collections are now to be found in numerous museums around the world because of their distribution by the Esslinger Reiseverein , a stock corporation for conducting natural history collecting trips. Schimper and Ludwig Rabenhorst planned to found their own "cryptogamic travel club".

A daughter of Schimper, Tsehaytu (i.e. 'his sun'), was married to the Ethiopian pretender to the throne and rebel Kasa Golja (after her capture by the Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV , she was forcibly separated from him around 1872). Another daughter was married to the German missionary Friedrich Bender and ran a school in Adwa, which was unusual for Ethiopia at the time. His son Wilhelm Schimper junior, with the Ethiopian name Ingdaschet, trained as an engineer at the Polytechnicum Karlsruhe from 1872–77, was a translator for Emperor Yohannes IV around 1882, later an engineer in the Italian colony of Eritrea and finally a translator for Emperor Menelik II in Addis Ababa. Wilhelm Schimper junior accompanied Gerhard Rohlfs on his mission to Yohannes IV on the basis of a letter of recommendation from the Grand Duke of Baden on behalf of the German Emperor Wilhelm I. Rohlfs had already met his father personally after the storm on Magdala .

During his studies Wilhelm Schimper became a member of the Helvetia Munich fraternity in 1827 .


The plant species Schimpera Steud are named after him . & Hochst. ex Endl. from the cruciferous family (Brassicaceae), Schimperina Tiegh. from the belt flower family (Loranthaceae) and Oreoschimperella Rauschert from the umbelliferae family (Apiaceae).


  • Ernst Wunschmann:  Schimper, Wilhelm . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 31, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1890, pp. 279-281.
  • Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume I: Politicians. Sub-Volume 5: R – S. Winter, Heidelberg 2002, ISBN 3-8253-1256-9 , pp. 240-241.
  • Carl Heinrich Schultz : I. Original essays on the Compositae of Eduard Rüppell 's and Wilhelm Schimper's Abyssinian and Kotschy 's Nubian journey. In: Flora or general botanical newspaper , XXV vol., II. Vol. Regensburg 1842, pp. 417–424, 433–442
  • Steudel : I. Original essays on the species of Cyperus, Mariscus and Kyllingia, which are included in the second shipment of plants from Abyssinia by the travelers of the association Mr. W. Schimper. In: Flora or general botanical newspaper , XXV vol., II. Vol. Regensburg 1842, pp. 577-585, 593-599

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. September 2 or August 2, 19
  2. Jan-Peter Frahm, Jens Eggers (ed.): Lexicon of German-speaking bryologists. Volume 1, 1995, 2001, ISBN 3-8311-0986-9 , p. 449.
  3. Arno Wörz: The Esslingen Botanical Travel Association 1825–1845. Logos, 2016, ISBN 978-3-8325-4211-5 , pp. 88-108.
  4. ^ EM Oettinger : Moniteur des Dates. 5th volume, Dresden, 1868, p. 25.
  5. according to other sources: in Lauf or Reichenschwand .
  6. Schimper, Georg Wilhelm: In Abyssinia. Observations on Tigre . Ed. by Andreas Gestrich and Dorothea McEwan. Critical online edition, 2015
  7. Arno Wörz: The Esslingen Botanical Travel Association 1825–1845. A stock corporation for the implementation of natural history collecting trips. In: Stuttgart contributions to the history of science and technology. Volume 9. Logos Verlag Berlin 2016, 211 pages. ISBN 978-3-8325-4211-5
  8. ^ The "Esslinger Reiseverein" is listed in the historical literature under "Württembergischer Naturhistorischer Reiseverein". The purpose of this association was to finance the collectors' trips by selling the collected botanicals.
  9. Call for the establishment of a cryptogamous travel association. In: Mohl , Schlechtendal (ed.): Botanische Zeitung , 21st year, Arthur Felix, Leipzig 1863, p. 208
  10. Gerhard Rohlfs My mission to Abyssinia - undertaken on the orders of Sr. Maj. The German Emperor in the winter of 1880/81 , Leipzig, FA Brockhaus, 1883
  11. ^ Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume I: Politicians. Sub-Volume 5: R – S. Winter, Heidelberg 2002, ISBN 3-8253-1256-9 , p. 240.
  12. Lotte Burkhardt: Directory of eponymous plant names - Extended Edition. Part I and II. Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin , Freie Universität Berlin , Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-946292-26-5 doi: 10.3372 / epolist2018 .