Gesner, Konrad von

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Gesner, Konrad von

(kôn`rät fən gĕs`nər), 1516–65, Swiss scientist and bibliographer. Gesner was noted for his scholarship and erudition in almost every field of knowledge. He lived in Zürich and other European cities, teaching physics and natural history and practicing medicine and surgery. Among his works was a dictionary of plants, Historia plantarum, written in 1541; most of his botanical writings were collected and published (2 vol., 1751–71) as the Opera botanica. He is most important as a reviver of the classical school of zoological description that culminated in the work of Linnaeus. Gesner's beautifully illustrated compendium Historia animalium (5 vol., 1551–58, 1587) influenced both biology and the arts and is considered the foundation of zoology as a science. The genus Gesneria is named after him. His other works include Mithridates (1555), a philological study of 130 languages, and Bibliotheca universalis (4 vol., 1545–49), an index in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew of writings in all languages.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gesner, Konrad Von


Born Mar. 26, 1516, in Zurich; died there Dec. 13, 1565. Swiss naturalist, philologist, and bibliographer.

From 1537, Gesner was a professor at Lausanne and from 1541 a physician in Zurich, where he died of the plague. He was the author of A History of Animals (vols. 1-5, 1551-87), the first zoological encyclopedia of that time. Proceeding basically from Aristotle’s classification, Gesner described animals in detail in the sequence four-legged viviparous and oviparous animals, birds, fish and water animals, and snakes and insects. In each volume the material was placed in alphabetical order by the animals’ names. Some related forms were grouped around one typical animal. Gesner’s work played an important role in the extension and systematization of zoological knowledge. For a period of more than 100 years it was repeatedly published and translated. Gesner also collected and studied plants. He published works on philology, and he was the author of the first universal bibliographic work, The Universal Library (1545-55).


Lunkevich, V. V. Ot Geraklita do Darvina: Ocherki po istorii biologii, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.
Plavil’shchikov, N. N. Ocherki po istorii zoologii. Moscow, 1941.
Ley, W. Konrad Gesner: Leben und Werk. Munich, 1929.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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