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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
Hugh S. Torrens
University College, Chester, UKKeele University, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK
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January 01, 2005


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.

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Figures & Tables


Geological Society, London, Special Publications

History of Palaeobotany: Selected Essays

A.J. Bowden
A.J. Bowden
National Museums Liverpool, UK
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C.V. Burek
C.V. Burek
University College, Chester, UK
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R. Wilding
R. Wilding
History of Geology Group, UK
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2005




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