Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt

Botany and Molecular Evolution


No other Senckenbergian discipline dates back so directly to Johann Christian Senckenberg (1707-1772) like botany. His original foundation, the "Dr. Senckenbergische Stiftung" comprised a hospital, an anatomical theatre, the Senckenbergian library and a botanical garden, where a "Stiftsbotanikus" was appointed as botanist and head gardener. The Stiftsbotanikus Johannes Becker (1769-1833) was one of the founding members of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung (SGN) in 1817 (then: Senckenbergische Naturforschende Gesellschaft) and the society’s first curator for botany. His personal collection formed the main core of the Herbarium Senckenbergianum. The herbarium grew steadily under the following curators for botany, e.g. Georg Fresenius, Theodor Geyler, Adolph Metzler. Several expeditions undertaken under the society’s auspices (e.g. Rüppell to Abyssinia and Arabia, Freyreiss to Brazil) also added important collections.

When Frankfurt University was founded in 1914, the society contributed its botanical and zoological collections to form the biological department. At that time Martin Möbius (1859-1946) was curator (“Sektionär”) of phanerogams of the SGN, and became the first professor of botany of the university, thus also uniting the function of the “Stiftsphysicus” of the “Dr. Senckenbergische Stiftung” in his person. Over the course of time, fields of research at the university and in the SGN diverged, leading to the separation of the institutions. In 1941, Richard Kräusel (1890-1966) was appointed head of the Department of Paleobotany at the SGN. When the herbarium collections were transferred back to the SGN in 1946, the Department of Botany and Paleobotany was formed. In 1966, Hans Joachim Conert succeeded Kräusel as head of this department.

Right: Johannes Becker (1769-1833).

Johannes Becker

In 1995, an institutionalized cooperation with the Goethe University was re-established by jointly appointing a professor of botany to the university and head of the Department of Botany and Paleobotany (Georg Zizka). In 2004, the Section of Paleobotany was transferred to the Department of Paleontology and Geology. In 2005, the Grunelius-Möllgaard Laboratory for Molecular Evolution was established as part of the department, now named “Department of Botany and Molecular Evolution”.

History in more detail