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Blumenbach’s significance in the history of science

Blumenbach was a central figure in the revolutionary changes that took place in the earth- and life-sciences from the middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth century. Comparable to the Copernican revolution which had reduced human significance in space, it diminished human importance in time. What Wolf Lepenies long ago called “the end of natural history” took place when a static perception of the world was turned into a temporalized history of nature. The earth gained a pre-history, and the rapidly secularising sciences of geology and palaeontology immeasurably extended geohistory beyond the time frame of biblical chronology.

A fossil specimen from the collection of Blumenbach’s Academic Museum.
Fossils were crucial evidence for the revolutionary reinterpretation of the age and history of the earth in Blumenbach’s time.