Brandt, Johann Friedrich

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Brandt, Johann Friedrich

(b. Jöterbog, Germany, 25 May 1802; d. Baths of Merreköll, Finland, 15 July 1879)

zoology, paleontology, botany.

Brandt was carefully educated by his parents at Jüterbog, in the Prussian province of Brandenburg, where his father was a successful surgeon. From his great–uncle Hensius he early acquired a liking for botany, which captivated his attention for more than twenty years.

After graduating from the Gymnasium at Jüterbog, Brandt attended the Lyceum of Wittenberg, studying classics, and in 1821 entered the University of Berlin to study medicine. Although he had such famous teachers as Karl A. Rudolphi, Karl A. F. Kluge, and Albrecht von Gräfe, he still preferred botany, zoology, and even mineralogy. During his first vacation he visited the Harz Mountains with his fellow student Julius T. C. Ratzeburg; having won the prize for an essay on respiration, he was able to continue his travels the following year through the Riesengebirge.

The lectures of Martin H. K. Lichtenstein stimulated Brandt’s interest in zoology and prompted him to visit many museums of anatomy. At that time he became a protégé of Rudolphi, to whom he was secretary for a short time. In 1825 he published Flora Berolinensis, based on his previous field trips. On 24 June 1826, having defended his thesis, “Observationes anatomicae de mammalium quorundam vocis instrumento”, he obtained the M.D. During the same summer he passed his state examinations and became a licensed surgeon.

After having been assistant to the famous surgeon Ernst L. Heim for a short time, Brandt became assistant at the Anatomical Institute of the University of Berlin in 1827. He at once began, in collaboration with his friend Ratzeburg, to work on the first volume of their Medizinische Zoologie (1829–1833). This work, considered one of the major achievements of his career, was an enumeration and description of the animals used in the preparation of medical drugs.

Brandt was accepted as Privatdozent at the University of Berlin in 1828 and lectured on several subjects, among which medical botany and pharmacology were his favorites. Although he wrote many articles for the Encyklopädische Lexikon, his research continued to be more in botany than in zoology, as shown by Deutschlands phanerogamische Giftgewächse (1828) and Tabellar Uebersicht d. offizin. Gewächse nach d. Linn. Sexualsystem u. d. natörl. System (1829), each the first part of a major work. In 1830 he began writing monographs on the myriopods and Oniscidae, as well as a memoir on mammals based on Friedrich Bürde’ Abbildungen merkwürdiger Säugethiere.

However, in spite of his achievements Brandt was unable to find any permanent position in Germany, and like many other German scientists of that time he emigrated to Russia. He left Berlin in 1831, and through the influence of Humboldt and Rudolphi he was appointed an associate member of the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg, as well as an assistant in its zoological museum, of which he later became director. In that position he succeeded another German scientist, K. E. von Baer, who a few years earlier had left his position in Königsberg to join the Academy of St. Petersburg, but found life in that town not to his liking and returned home.

Brandt was elected an ordinary member of the Academy in 1833, a position he held until his death. Besides his activity in the Academy, he taught at the Central Pedagogical Institute, a teacher’s college, and for eighteen years (1851–1869)was professor of zoology at the Military–Medical Academy, where army surgeons were trained.

Many honors were bestowed upon Brandt: he became an Imperial Russian Councillor, received the title of “Excellency”, was invested with several distinguished orders, and was elected honorary member of many academies and scientific societies of Europe.

The fiftieth anniversary of his doctoral degree was celebrated in January 1876 with great pomp and with the participation of many of his students and friends. A special medal was struck for the occasion, and the Brandt Prize was established to reward outstanding zoological works. At this time Brandt’s published scientific writings numbered 318, and their distribution among different scientific disciplines illustrates the extent of his knowledge: 176 publications are zoological, twenty–four relate to comparative anatomy, thirty–five are paleontological, eleven deal with geographical zoology, and the remainder pertain to archaeological zoology, botany, and various other subjects.

Russia presented Brandt with unusual opportunities for original studies. His activity followed two major lines: research and collecting specimens. He had found the zoological collection of the Academy very incomplete, and he undertook its development by means of many scientific expeditions financed by the Academy. He went to the Crimea, to Bessarabia, and to Nicolayev in search of the mammoth, and to the Caucasus to study its fish. For comparative purposes, and also to keep in touch with the progress of science in the West, he visited and studied in the museums of many European countries. Brandt collected not only animals during his travels but also books, making the zoological division of the Academy’s library outstanding.

Although Brandt’s zoological publications are remarkable, his fame is based essentially on his paleontological writings, which relate to the fossil Mammalia. The most important of these, Untersuchungen über die fossilen und subfossilen Cetaceen Europa’s, gives a complete account of all the European Cetacea known until 1873. This work includes descriptions of species of Cetotherium, Pachyacanthus, Cetotheriopsis, Cetotheriomorphus, Delphinapterus, Heterodelphis, Schizodelphis, Champsodelphis, Squalodon, Zeuglondon, and other remarkable types. Several important memoirs relate to Elasmotherium, Dinotherium, Rhytina, the elk, and the mammoth. Another monograph is devoted to the characters of the Sirenia, and their relations to different orders. Brandt also made important contributions to the knowledge of the osteology and structure of many other groups of mammals.

As a paleontologist, Brandt ranks among the best. His exhaustive and lucid monographs were written with a full understanding of their philosophical implications, an attitude very close to the final aim of scientific research.


Among Brandt’s writings are Flora Berolinensis, sive descriptio plantarum phanerogamarum circa Berolinum sponte crescentium vel in agris cultarum additis filicibus et charis (Berlin, 1824); Deutschlands phanerogamische Giftgewächse (Berlin, 1828); Tabellar Uebersichi d. offizin. Gewächse nach d. Linn. Sexualsystem u. d. natürl. System (Berlin, 1829); Medizinische Zoologie oder getreue Darstellung und Beschreibung der Thiere die in der Arzneimlttellehre in Betracht Kommen, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1829–1833), written with J. T. C. Ratzeburt; Uebersicht d. Charactere d. Familien d. offizin. Gewächse nach R. Brown, De Candolle, Jussieu,… (Berlin, 1830); Deutschlands kryptogamische Giftgewächse (Berlin, 1838), published together with Deutschlands phanerogamische Geftgewächse as Abbildung und Beschreibung der in Deutschland wild wachsenden und in Gärten in freien ausdauernden Giftgewächse, nach natürlichen Familien erläutert, mit Beiträgen von P. Phoebus und J. T. C. Ratzeburg (Berlin, 1838); Symbolae Sirenologicae quibus praecipue Rhutinae historia naturalis illustratur (St. Petersburg, 1846); Symbolae Sirenologicae…, fasc. 2 and 3 (St. Petersburg, 1861–1868), also Mémoires de l’Académie impériale des sciences, St. Pétersbourg, 7th ser., 12, no. 1; Untersuchungen über die fossilen und subfossilen Cetaceen Europa’s mit Beiträgen von Van Beneden, Cornalia, Gastaldi, Quenstedt, und Paulson, nebst einem geologischen Anhange von Barbot de Marny, G. von Helmersen, A. Goebel und Th. Fuchs, ibid., 20, no. 1 (1873); Ergänzungen, ibid., 21, no. 6 (1874); and Bericht über die Fortschritte, welche die zoologischen Wissenschaften den von der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu St. Petersburg von 1831 bis 1879 herausgegeben Schriften verdanken (St. Petersburg, 1879).

An index to Brandt’s works is J. F. Brandtii index operum omnium (St. Petersburg, 1876), issued as a Festschrift.

Albert V. Carozzi

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Brandt, Johann Friedrich

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