Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn

One of, if not the most paradigmatic explorer of the 19th century was Alexander von Humboldt, who thorougly explored and mapped parts of Europe and South America. Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn, although widely forgotten, represents a talent of the same size. Unlike Humboldt, who came from the rich background of a noble family and got from young years on all the support one can wish to develop great talents and could finance all his expeditions by his own fortune, Junghuhn was born into a simple family and was initially forced into a way of life he really didn’t want.

Severe struggles with his father shaped a strong character who never avoided conflicts with authorities when he was convinced it was necessary for a good reason.

Franz Junghuhn completely explored Java‘s geography, geology and botany. He created the first reliable map of whole Java and countless of particular maps of Javanese regions, including the Dieng Plateau. He was also the first who mapped the southern Batak territories on Sumatra. A breakthrough in botany was his successfull cultivation of Peruvian bark trees (quinine production) on Java.

Junghuhn’s writings are among the best of the worlds geographic literature and influenced many scientists. His main work “Java, seine Gestalt, Pflanzendecke und innere Bauart” (1857) contains an incredible variety of detailed information on Java’s nature.

Creating a great scientific work he died much too young in the age of 54 years. I suppose he would have done much more in his later years, particularly because he had many resources to do so in the last years of his life, which he lacked in earlier years.

His biography reads like a 19th century adventure novel.

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