Georg Forster

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Forster, Georg

 

(full name Johann Georg Adam Forster). Born Nov. 27, 1754, in Nassenhuben, near Danzig (now Gdansk); died Jan. 12, 1794, in Paris. German scientist and revolutionary democrat.

In 1765 and 1766, Forster traveled through Russia with his father, and from 1772 to 1775 he accompanied J. Cook on his second voyage around the world. From 1778 to 1784 he was a professor of natural sciences at the University of Kassel, and from 1784 to 1787, at the University of Wilno. In 1788 he was appointed librarian at the University of Mainz. Forster’s Voyage Around the World (English edition, 1777; German editions, 1778–80 and 1784) and Observations on the Lower Rhine (German edition, vols. 1–3, 1791–94) covered a wide range of topics, including geography, natural history, ethnography, aesthetics, and cultural history and were suffused with an antifeudal and anticlerical spirit.

Influenced by the French materialists, Forster adopted a materialist position at the end of the 1780’s, subscribing to a sensationalist theory of knowledge. Forster, who had previously shown an interest in Utopian socialism, welcomed the French Revolution. In November 1792 he joined the Society of Friends of Freedom and Equality, which was founded at the beginning of the revolutionary events in Mainz (seeMAINZ COMMUNE); he soon became its vice-president and later, its president. In 1793 he was elected president of the Rhenish German National Convention. In March 1793, on Forster’s initiative, the convention declared Mainz a republic and adopted a resolution on uniting the republic with revolutionary France. Forster led a delegation of the Mainz convention to Paris. After the fall of the Mainz Commune, he remained in France and became a supporter of the Jacobins.

A brilliant publicist, Forster wrote on literature and art. He translated M. V. Lomonosov’s A Short Russian Chronicle into English and the Jacobin constitution into German and English. F. Engels spoke highly of Forster’s work (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, p. 572).

WORKS

Werke, vols. 1–4, 7–9, 12. Berlin, 1958–73.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1960.

REFERENCES

Moshkovskaia, Iu. Ia. G. Forster—nemetskiiprosvetitel’ i revoliutsioner XVIII v. Moscow, 1961.
Gulyga, A. V. Iz istorii nemetskogo materializma. Moscow, 1962.
Fiedler, H. G. Forster: Bibliographie, 1767–1970. Berlin, 1971.
Die Mainzer Republik: Protokolle des Jakobinerklubs. Berlin, 1975.