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Civic and Economic Zoology in Nineteenth-Century Germany: The "Living Communities" of Karl Mobius

Lynn K. Nyhart
Isis
Vol. 89, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 605-630
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/236735
Page Count: 27
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Civic and Economic Zoology in Nineteenth-Century Germany: The "Living Communities" of Karl Mobius
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Abstract

In an effort to broaden our analytical approach to nineteenth-century German science, this essay examines the intellectual and social worlds of the Kiel zoologist Karl Mobius from the late 1850s to the late 1870s. I first analyze Mobius's famous concept of the "bioconose" or biotic community, which appeared in an 1877 monograph on oyster-culture. Although this book seems to exemplify the conjunction between state and university that has dominated the historiography of German science, in fact, as I go on to argue, the conceptual framework it came from was largely developed earlier, when he worked as a schoolteacher and natural history activist in Hamburg. An analysis of Mobius's writings and activities during his fifteen years in Hamburg (1853-1868) shows that elements crucial to his community concept grew out of his varied activities in the civic setting. This "civic zoology," I argue, is a crucial site for investigating both the development of biogeographical and ecological thinking in the later nineteenth century and the broader culture of science among the Burgertum of Wilhelmine Germany.

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