The Moravian minister Rev. Henry Steinhauer (1782–1818); his work on fossil plants, their first ‘scientific’ description and the planned Mineral Botany
Hugh S. Torrens, 2005. "The Moravian minister Rev. Henry Steinhauer (1782–1818); his work on fossil plants, their first ‘scientific’ description and the planned Mineral Botany", History of Palaeobotany: Selected Essays, A.J. Bowden, C.V. Burek, R. Wilding
Download citation file:
Henry Steinhauer (born in 1782 at Haverfordwest, UK; died in 1818 at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA) was the son of a Moravian minister and teacher. He attended their Yorkshire school from 1789 and then trained for their ministry in Germany. He returned to teach at Fulneck from 1801 to 1811. Moravians particularly encouraged the study of, and participation in, music and natural history, and Fulneck school had a museum for the latter by 1795. At Fulneck Steinhauer came across the fossil plants found in nearby coal mines. By 1811 he was suffering from consumption. To improve his health he moved temporarily to London where he tried to encourage James Sowerby to undertake a ‘Mineral Botany’ project to parallel Sowerby’s one on fossil shells, Mineral Conchology. Sadly, this failed to come to fruition. Next Steinhauer moved to Bath, where he became a disciple of the stratigraphic methods of William Smith. In 1814 he received a call to teach at the new world Moravian settlement of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, USA. He set off late in 1815 and there presented his only palaeobotanical paper to the American Philosophical Society in May 1817. This gave scientific descriptions of 10 species of English fossil coal plants and introduced valid binomial nomenclature for such fossils. His large collection of stratigraphically arranged fossils from all over England, and its detailed manuscript catalogue all predating his 1815 departure, survive in Philadelphia. His work has largely been lost sight of because of his early death and the tragic separation of this fine collection from its place of origin. He deserves to be better known.
Figures & Tables
Often regarded as the ‘Cinderella’ of palaeontological studies, palaeobotany has a history that contains some fascinating insights into scientific endeavour, especially by palaeontologists who were perusing a personal interest rather than a career. The problems of maintaining research facilities in universities, especially in the modern era, are described and reveal a noticeable absence of a national UK strategy to preserve centres of excellence in an avowedly specialist area. Accounts of some of the pioneers demonstrate the importance of collaboration between taxonomists and illustrators. The importance of palaeobotany in the rise of geoconservation is outlined, as well as the significant and influential role of women in the discipline. Although this volume has a predominantly UK focus, two very interesting studies outline the history of palaeobotanical work in Argentina and China.