A place for the observation of nature: the observatorio

Björn Brüsch

Observation was one of the most prominent techniques of 19th-century science. It not only provided a means to understand the Bildung (formation) of material objects but also a means to understand the Bildung and development of society and nature as such. Accordingly many promoters of the various spheres of knowledge put a strong emphasis on drawing as a method to visually describe the observed. Education in the early 19th century furthermost was an education and training of the eye.

This has not been different in the botanical sciences. In it, it was the visibility of structural details which counted most, either by use of microscopes or by the active engagement with the visible details of plants. As plants as the object of study embodied their complete history and development anatomical details and the physical life were almost as easily comprehensible as the objects of study themselves. The observational study of plants also had been one of the most fundamental intentions connected to an observatorio established by the Society for the advancement of horticulture in the Royal Prussian States, founded in 1822 in Berlin.

Its main area was installed within a forest close to Sanssouci garden as the trees provided shelter from prevailing winds and sunburns. In addition to favourable climatic conditions the different soil types were thought to substitute the lacking provincial institution at different venues within the Prussian provinces.

ISSN 1866-4784: reference - xlink