FORSTER, Johann Georg

FORSTER, Johann Georg Adam. Nassenhuben near Danzig (now Mokry Dwór in Poland) 27.11.1754 — Paris 10.1.1794. German Scientist, Author and Traveller interested in India. The eldest son of —> J. R. F. and Justine Elisabeth Nicolai. As a youth travelled with his father in 1766 in Russia and England and they participated in Cook’s second voyage in 1772-75. He was a naturalist and nature admirer in the way of Rousseau and Buffon and also an admirer of Linné. From 1779 Professor of Natural History at Carolinum of Kassel, from 1784 at Vilnius Univer­sity. From 1788 Librarian of Mainz University Library. In 1792, after the French occupation of Mainz, he joined the Jacobin club and became later vice-president of Rhine-German National Covent. As its representant he came to Paris and he spent his last time there. Married 1785 Therese Heyne (1764–1829), four daughters. Member of Royal Society (1777), Leopoldina (1780) and Prussian A.W. (1786).

Forster was a revolutionary bourgeois democrat, who hated feodal absolutism. He had a many-sided literary output. His translations had a marked influence on the developing of an interest in India in Germany. Through his version Goethe read his much admired Sakontala, and through his translation of Robertson’s work A. W. von Schlegel was prompted to the study of Sanskrit. His Sakontala was then the model of several further versions. He was also the teacher of Alexander von Humboldt.

Publications: A Voyage round the World. L. 1777, in German 1-2. B. 1778-80, and new editions.

Ansichten vom Niederrhein, von Brabant, Flandern, Holland, England und Frankreich. 1-3. B. 1791-94, and many other writings, reviews and translations.

Translated: Sakontala oder der entscheidende Ring, ein indisches Schauspiel von Kalidas. Aus dem Ursprachen Sanskrit und Prakrit in’s Englisch [von W. Jones] und aus diesem in’s Deutsche übersetzt mit Erläuterungen. 40+366 p. Mainz & Lp. 1791, zweite rechtmässige von J. G. von Herder besorgte Ausgabe. Frankfurt 1803, zweite Abdruck. Heidelberg 1820; Bühnenbearbeitung von W. Gerhard. 1820; Dutch translation by E. M. Post. 1792; French translation (of Jones’ text and Forster’s notes) by Bruguière. 1808 (and this further translated into Italian by Doria in 1815); Swedish by Ekelund. 1821; Polish by Grabowski. 1861.

Translated: Dr. Wilhelm Robertson’s, Königlichen Historiographen von Schottland, historische Untersuchung über die Kenntnisse der Alten von Indien, und die Fortschritte des Handels mit diesem Lande vor der Entdeckung des Weges dahin um das Vorgebirge der Guten Hoffnung. 12+392 p. B. 1792.

Sämtliche Schriften. 1–9. Lp. 1843.

Sources: *O. Berghof, Literature of Travel and Explor. 1, 2003, 452-454; *A. Dove, A.D.B. 7, 1877, 172-181; *E. Lange, “G.F.”, WZJena 19, 1970, 597-601; G. Steiner, N.D.B. 5, 1961, 301; Windisch 47, 58; Wikipedia with portrait and further references (more in German version); portrait in Indology in G.D.R. 1978.

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