Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg: Illustrious Lancastrians #2

One of the first American botanists and an early champion of Linnaeus’s sexual system of plant description, Henry collected over one thousand species of plants within a three-mile radius of Lancaster, where he served as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church (he commissioned the steeple which stands today, with its apostolic statuary). He lived in the stone house still standing at 33 North Duke Street, and played host to numerous preeminent scientists of the day, including Alexander von Humboldt, who passed through Lancaster in 1807. He was the first President of Franklin College (now F&M), which he helped found in an abandoned brew house. Henry often walked to Philadelphia to visit with John and William Bartam. He discovered countless new species of flora, but had a particular interest in grasses. He often consumed strange plants to discover medicinal qualities, also experimenting on friends, of which he had many. While exploring the marshlands and meadows which once surrounded a pre-agricultural Lancaster County, he also discovered the rare and threatened bog turtle (Clemmys muhlenbergii).

Pages from the Muhlenberg Herbarium, now at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.  Click for citation.


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