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STERNBERG, KASPAR MARIA VON (b. Prague,
Bohemia [now in Czechoslovakia], 6 January 1761;
d. Březina castle, Radnice, 20 December 1838),
botany, geology, paleontology.
woods and forests and induced him to study botany
and later to found a botanical garden there. In
1805 and 1806 he accompanied the prince-bishop
to Paris, where he met many prominent scientists
including Faujas de Saint-Fond, who initiated him
in the study of fossil plants. Here he received and
studied carefully, with the aid of collections in
Paris, Ernst von Schlotheim's book (1804) on fossil
plant impressions in Coal Measures. In 1808 he
inherited the family estate at Radnice with Březina
castle and thereafter devoted himself to botanical
studies and the promotion of natural science in
Bohemia. When, shortly before his death thirty
years later, he presided over a large congress of
naturalists at Prague, he and Brongniart were recognized
as the two leading paleobotanists in the
Sternberg studied especially the Carboniferous
phytopaleontology but he also published some
papers dealing with the trilobites and Pleistocene
fauna. He had ready access to fossils and fossil
impressions found in the coalfields on his own estate
and in the “transitional rocks” near Prague.
He tried to interpolate the species of fossil plants
into the botanical system by discarding the old
names given to the fossil forms and applying existing
botanical correlations to them. Thereby he
greatly increased the proper botanical significance
of fossil floras and paved the way for a scientific
treatment of paleobotany. His chief work, the seven-volume
Versuch einer geognostisch-botanischen
Darstellung der Flora der Vorwelt (1820 - 1833),
described two hundred fossil species of
plants with the aid of sixty folio plates. The ideas
expressed in this work expanded those of Ernst
von Schlotheim but were based on a narrower
range of material than that contained in the contemporary
publications of Brongniart, one of the
Paris naturalists who helped to turn Sternberg to
botanical pursuits. William Buckland sized up the
situation fairly when he wrote: “We owe to the
labours of Schlotheim, Sternberg and Ad. Brongniart
the foundation of such a systematic arrangement
of fossil plants, as enables us to enter, by
means of the analogies of recent plants, into the
difficult question of the Ancient Vegetation of the
Earth, during those periods when the strata were
under the process of formation” (Geology and
Mineralogy, I [London, 1837], 454).
Sternberg's name is commemorated in the technical
terminology for fossil organisms, both animal
and vegetable, Sternbergia, Sternbergella, and
Parasternbergella. The plants include several
small crocuslike species native to Europe, such as
Sternbergia lutea. The mineral sternbergite is a
natural sulfide of silver and iron (AgFe2S3)
in orthorhombic prisms and first discovered
in the mines at Joachimsthal (Jachymov), Bohemia.
In 1818 - 1821 Sternberg was one of the chief
founders of the Bohemian National Museum,
Prague. He acted as its president from 1822 to his
death and bequeathed his library and his geological
and botanical collections to it. He had close dealings
with Goethe and their correspondence has
been published. Today his botanical, geological,
and paleontological collections remain in the National
Museum. His written works are in the Museum
of National Literature, Prague, and his diplomas,
correspondence, and other literary remains
are in the department of the State Archives at
I. ORIGINAL WORKS.
Sternberg wrote all his books
and articles in German. F. Palacký, Leben des Grafen
K. Sternberg . . . (see below), contains a bibliography
with 74 titles, among which the most important are Galvanische
Versuche in manchen Krankheiten; herausgeben
mit einer Einleitung in Bezug auf die Erregungstheorie
von J.-U.-G. Schaeffer (Regensburg, 1803);
Botanische Wanderungen in den Böhmerwald . . .
(Nuremberg, 1806); Reisen in die rhaetischen Alpen,
vorzüglich in botanischer Hinsicht (Nuremberg-Regensburg,
1806); Reise durch Tyrol in die Oesterreichischen
Provinzen Italiens in Frühjahr 1804 . . .
(Regensburg, 1806); Revisio saxifragarum iconibus illustrata
(Regensburg, 1810, 1822); Abhandlung über
die Pflanzenkunde in Böhmen, 2 vols. (Prague, 1817 - 1818);
Versuch einer geognostisch-botanischen Darstellung
der Flora der Vorwelt . . ., 7 vols. (Leipzig - Prague,
1820 - 1833); and Umrisse einer Geschichte der
böhmischen Bergwerke, 2 vols. (Prague, 1836 - 1838).
His correspondence with Goethe was published as Briefwechsel
zwischen Goethe und Kaspar Graf von Sternberg
(1820 - 1832), F. T. Bratranek, ed. (Vienna, 1866).
II. SECONDARY LITERATURE.
The chief biographies
are F. Palacký, Leben des Grafen K. Sternberg . . .
nebst einem akademischen Vortrag über der Grafen K.
und F. Sternberg Leben und Wirken . . . (Prague, 1868),
and V. Zázvorka, “Kašpar Maria hrabě
život a vźynam,” in Zvlástni otisk z
musea, 113 (Prague, 1939), 1 - 22, with portraits. See
also W. Whewell, in Proceedings of the Geological Society
(London), 3 (1838 - 1842), 72 - 74; and C. von Wurzbach,
Biographisches Lexikon des kaiserthums Oesterreich,
XXXVIII (Vienna, 1879), 252 - 266.