Dr. Fritz Jürgen Meyer

Professor of Botany

 

Introduction

Born in Braunschweig in 1891, Fritz Jürgen Meyer studied botany at the University of Marburg, where he obtained his doctorate in 1916. In 1919, he became an assistant to Gustav Gassner at the Institute of Botany at what is now the Technical University of Braunschweig. He was promoted to professor in 1928, but continued to teach biology at high school level, initially at ‘Gymnasium Hinter Brüdern’ and later at ‘Gymnasium Kleine Burg’.

 His scholarly work in the interwar period focused on plant anatomy, as he recorded in great detail the structures of various flowers. Of this period, his Systematische Anatomy der Monokotyledonen’ (1928/1933) became has been most influential work. After World War II, he taught and wrote about botany for civil engineers, publishing his ‘Kulturtechnische Botanik’ in 1951. This website aims to provide an appreciation of his work and life.

Research on Plant Anatomy

Fritz Jürgen Meyer’s early work focused plant anatomy, recording the cell structures and their function of various families of monocotyledons. This work expanded over his doctoral dissertation that he had written at the University of Marburg under supervision of Arthur Meyer (no relation). He gave his inaugural lecture at the Technical University of Braunschweig in 1922 on "The Influence of Light on the Growth of Plants".

He was admitted as member of the German Botanical Society in 1917, and over a period of twenty years, until 1936, he published about forty articles on plant anatomy in leading German journals of Botany. A reconstructed publication list is reproduced at the end of the webpage.

What are monocotyledons? Botanists traditionally recognize two types of flowering plants: Monocotyledons (or monocots) and dicotyledons. Wikipedia [accessed January 2007] tells us that “Monocots comprise the majority of agricultural plants in terms of biomass produced. There are between 50,000 and 60,000 species within this group. The largest family in this group (and in the flowering plants as a whole) by number of species are the orchids (family Orchidaceae), with about twenty thousand species. The economically most important family in this group are the grasses, family Poaceae (Gramineae). These include all the true grains (rice, wheat, maize, etc.), the pasture grasses and the bamboos. This family of the true grasses has evolved in another direction, becoming highly specialized for wind pollination. Other economically important monocot families are the palm family (Arecaceae), banana family (Musaceae), ginger family (Zingiberaceae) and the onion family Alliaceae, which includes such ubiquitously used vegetables as onions and garlic. Many plants cultivated for their blooms are also from the monocot group, notably lilies, daffodils, irises, amaryllis, orchids, cannas, bluebells and tulips.”

An important part of this line of work has been  a volume in the Encyclopedia of Plant Anatomy. This work was first published in 1923, and revised in a second edition published in 1962:

Meyer, Fritz Jürgen (1923/1962): Das trophische Parenchym: A. Assimilationsgewebe, 1st ed. 1923, 2nd ed. 1962 (Handbuch der Pflanzenanatomie, Band IV Teil 7 A), Gebrüder Borntraeger, Berlin, ISBN 978-3-443-39007-5.

The Systematic Anatomy

F.J. Meyer’s best known publication on plant anatomy is the ‘Systematic Anatomy of the Monocotyledons’ co-authored with Hans Solereder and published in four volumes 1928 to 1933. Hans Solereder (1860-1920) had been one of the major German botanists of his time and himself a student of Ludwig Radlkofer (1829-1927). Solereder produced the reference work ‘Systematische Anatomie der Dicotyledonen' in 1899, which was translated into English in 1908 by L.A. Boodle, head of the Jodrell Laboratory at Kew Gardens, London, and F.E. Fritsch,[1] and influenced further research on Dicotyledons at the Jodrell Institute in the 1950's.[2]

In the late 1920s, F.J. Meyer worked on the anatomy of monocotyledons on the basis of incomplete manuscripts that Solereder had left behind. He published four volumes between 1928 and 1933 (volumes 1, 3, 4 and 6), dealing with several major plant groups including grasses, palms and orchids.

 

Solereder, H. & Meyer, F.J. (1928-1933): Systematische Anatomie der Monokotyledonen, Gebrüder Borntraeger, Berlin.

[vol. II. Glumiflorae (1929), vol. III. Principes, Synanthae, Spathiflorae (1928), vol. IV. Farinosae (1929), vol. VI. Scitamineae-Microspermae (1933)]

 

English Translation of volume VI: Systematic Anatomy of the Monocotyledons, vol. VI. Orchidacae, Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Translated by A. Herzberg and edited by B. Golek, 1969.

  

 

This work has been one of the starting points for a stream of research on monocotyledons initiated at Kew Gardens, London by C.F. Metcalfe in the 1950s.[3]

 

Of Solereder and Meyer’s work, “only the orchid part was translated into English. Many anatomical works were published in German at this time and most English-speaking scientists would not be able to understand the language well enough. Although Solereder and Meyer's  work was incomplete, it remained the only attempt at a comprehensive survey of monocots until work started at Kew to carry forward and extend their accounts. The first volume, 'Gramineae' by C.F. Metcalfe, was published in 1960 and others followed on palms, bromeliads, gingers, irises, aroids and other groups.[4] The work continues at Kew; some families have still not been studied since that early work.” [e-mail from Mary Gregory, January 2007]

 

Botany for Civil and Agricultural Engineers

In the late 1930s, F.J. Meyer's interest shifted to a new field of study, the geography of botany, writing on topics such as 'the elm tree forests of Northern Germany'. At this time has been teaching  at the Technical University of Braunschweig the subject of ‘Kulturtechnische Botanik’, which should probably be translated as 'botany for civil and agricultural engineers'. His lectures at the interface between botany and technical disciplines attracted students from across the Technical University. These lectures and associated research led to his textbook published in 1951:

Meyer, Fritz Jürgen (1951): Kulturtechnische Botanik. Naturwissenschaftlicher Verlag, Berlin.

The significance of this book lies in the (at the time) rare interdisciplinary nature of this work, as emphasized in a book review in the Quarterly Review of Biology [5]. The book explains the interaction between plants and their immediate environment, and thus derives suggestions what types of plants, and how, should be planted in specific contexts. Such ideas are of renewed interest with growing environmental awareness, and building projects that aim to incorporate nature into human space. 

The book explains, for example, which plants and in what patterns should be planted along roads and railways. When I first read the book many years ago, I was bemused about the suggested pattern for planting trees along railways - motivated by the dangers of fire breaking out along the tracks in the age of steam engines. However, on a train journey in Poland in the 1990s, to my great amazement, I saw exactly these patterns in the forests of East Pomerania.

 

Scientist during the Nazi Years

The rise to power of the Nazi party in 1931 in the state of Braunschweig, and 1933 nationwide, severely curtailed the independence of universities and the prospects for scientific research. Fritz Jürgen Meyer worked closely with Gustav Gassner, who was elected President of the university in winter 1932 after his predecessor Otto Schmitz and Vice-president Carl Mühlenpfordt had been dismissed by the state government as a consequence of the Braunschweiger Hochschulkonflikt’. In this long running conflict the state government aimed to undermine the autonomy of the university, among other with the idea of appointing Hitler as a professor against the at the time united resistance of the professoriate. After the Nazi party took over the national government in March 1933, Gassner was arrested and dismissed, which put severe strains on the university, and the Institute of Botany in particular.

It is reported that in 1937, Fritz Jürgen Meyer was assessed as most qualified candidate for a chair at the Institute of Botany in Berlin-Dahlem, one of the leading botany research institutes at the time. Reportedly, he received a phone call informing him that the only obstacle to his appointment was that he had not yet joined ‘the party’. He declined the offer to join the Nazi party, and thus the post in Berlin. He remained in Braunschweig sharing his time between lectures at the university, and teaching at Kleine Burg High School; he never obtained a chair. His stream of publications in scholarly journals ended in the mid 1930s. The final year of World War II, he spend daytime teaching teenage solders manning the city's air defenses, and nights in the bunker in charge of triggering the alarms in case of impeding air attacks. In the these long nights in the bunker, the first draft of the 'Kulturtechnische Botanik' was penned. 

 

 

Personal

Fritz Jürgen Meyer was born in 1891 in Braunschweig as son of Fritz Meyer, violin teacher and writer, and his wife Emma Meyer born Schubert. His grandfather Jürgen Meyer was a watchmaker in Werningerode/Harz.

In the 1920s and early 1930s, he was active in the social live of his home city, Braunschweig. In particular, he was active in the local science association (Verein für Naturwissenschaften zu Braunschweig), where from 1921 to 1932 he have public lectures almost every year on a range of different topics of botany, especially on plant geography. He chaired the section for plant geography, and held various leadership roles in the association, which became inactive in the early 1930, presumably for political reasons. Fritz Jürgen Meyer was also an active chess player in the local club (Schachverein Turm), a hobby that he discontinued when he got married.

In 1930, Fritz Jürgen Meyer married Annaliese Helmke. Their son, named Jürgen Meyer, became himself a highly acclaimed scholar in the field of Musical Acoustics. Fritz Jürgen Meyer has four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. In his private life, he has been hiking extensively with his family with an eye for the beauties of nature that he recorded in photos and aquarelle paintings. He has been travelling, within the limitations faced by his generation, spending several vacations in Northern Italy.

His relatively late marriage is one of the reasons why we know relatively little about his early life and work. If you have information about his life, we would appreciate if you would share it with us.

Appendix: A Reconstruction of Fritz Jürgen Meyer’s Publication List

Books

Meyer, Fritz Jürgen (1915): Bau und Ontogenie des Wasserleitungssystemes der vegetativen Organe von Viola tricolor Var. Arvensis [Doctoral Dissertation, University of Marburg, 38 p.], Marburg: Hamel.

Meyer, Fritz Jürgen (1923/1962): Das trophische Parenchym: A. Assimilationsgewebe, 1st ed. 1923, 2nd ed. 1962 (Handbuch der Pflanzenanatomie, Band IV Teil 7 A), Gebrüder Borntraeger, Berlin, ISBN 978-3-443-39007-5.

Solereder, Hans and Meyer, Fritz Jürgen (1928-1933): Systematische Anatomie der Monokotyledonen, Gebrüder Borntraeger, Berlin. [vol. II. Glumiflorae (1929), vol. III. Principes, Synanthae, Spathiflorae (1928), vol. IV. Farinosae (1929), vol. VI. Scitamineae-Microspermae (1933)].

Meyer, Fritz Jürgen (1951): Kulturtechnische Botanik. Naturwissenschaftlicher Verlag, Berlin.

Journal Publications

Meyer, Fritz Jürgen (1913): Der Wind als pflanzenpathologischer Faktor, Naturwissenschaftliche Wochenschrift, N.F., vol. 12, p. 599-606.

--- (1913): Wie wird eine Moossamlung am vorteilhaftesten angelegt? Die Kleinwelt - Zeitschrift der deutschen Mikrologischen Gesellschaft 5(1), p. 13.

--- (1914): Die Verlandung stehender Gewässer, Prometheus vol. 25, (19), p.292-296 & (20), 307-309.

--- (1916): Altes und Neues über den Zusammenhang der Wasserleitungsbahnen der Pflanzen, Prometheus 27,p. 391-392.

--- (1916): Die Stelärtheorie und die neuere Nomenklatur zur Beschreibung der Wasserleitingsbahnen der höheren Pflanzen, Beihefte zum Botanischen Centralblatt I, vol. 33(2), p. 129-168.

--- (1916): Die wirtschaftlich wichtigen Eichen der Mittelmeerländer, Prometheus 28, p. 327-331.

--- (1917): Über die Bedeutung der Wasserlinsen-Wurzeln, Naturwissenschaftliche Wochenschrift, N.F. vol. 12, p. 459-460.

--- (1917): Bau und Ontogenie der Wasserleitungsbahnen und der an diese angeschlossenen Siebteile in den vegetativen Achsen der Pteridophyten, Gymnospermen und Angiospermen, Progressus rei botanicae, vol. 5, p. 521-588.

--- (1917): Über die Leitbündel einiger untergetauchter Wasserpflanzen und einiger Sumpfpflanzen, Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, Vol. 35(2), 165-169.

--- (1917): Bau und Ontogenie der Wasserleitungsbahnen und der an diese angeschlossenen Sibteils in den vegetativen AChsen der Pteridophyten, Gymnospermen und Angiospermen, Progressus Rei Botanicae, vol. 5, p. 521-.

--- (1918): Der Generationswechsel als Wechsel verschiedener Morphoden, Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, 36(7), p. 381-384.

--- (1918): Der Generationswechsel bei Pflanzen und Tieren als Wechsel verschiedener Morphoden, Biologisches Centrallblatt, vol. 38 (12), p. 505-522.

--- (1919): Das Leitungssystem von Equisetum arvense, Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Botanik, vol. 59, p. 263-286.

--- (1920): Die Lichtphysiologie der Pflanzen, Naturwissenschaften, Vol. 8, no. 43, October, p. 839-854. (this appears to be the basis for his inauguraal lecture delivered in 1922 in Braunschweig).

--- (1920): Das Leitungssystem von Equisetum arvense, Jahrbuch für Wissenschaftliche Botanik, vol. 59 p. 263-286.

--- (1920): Zum 70. Geburtstag Arthur Meyers, Apotheker Zeitung (11), 5 pages.

--- (1922): Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Leitbündelanatomi. I. Über das Vorkommen von Tracheenstrang-Verbindungen, Bot. Archiv vol. 2, p. 235-237.

--- (1922): Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Leitbündelanatomi. II. Das Leitungssystem von Polypodium vulgare, Bot. Archiv vol. 2, p. 278-280.

--- (1922): Arthur Meyer 1850-1922, Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, vol 60, p. 100-111. (an obituary for his doctoral supervisor [no relation])

--- (1922): Die Vitülhypothese Arthur Meyers, Naturwissenschaftliche Wochenschrift, N.F. 21, p. 633-640 (14 Figures).

--- (1923): Das Dogma vom lebenden Eiweiss und Arthur Meyers Vitülhypothese, Mikrokosmos, vol. 17 (10): 155-157.

--- (1924): Die Vitülhypothese Arthur Meyers, Biologische Heilkunst 12(9), p. 137-139.

--- (1924): Die Lycopodium-Leitbündel als Leitbündeltypus eigener Art. Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, Vol. 42(3), p. 100-108. 

--- (1925): Untersuchungen uber den Strangverlauf in den radialen Leitbündeln der Wurzeln., Jahrbuch der Wissenschaftlichen Botanik, vol. 68(1), p. 88-97.

--- (1925): Beitrage zur Kenntnis der Leitbundelanatomie III. Die diaplektischen oder durchwobenen Leitbündel der Lycopodien, Bot. Archiv vol. 13, p. 380-388.

--- (1926): Die diaplektischen Leitbundel de Lycopodien im Lichte der vergleichenden Anatomie und der Palaobotanik nebst einem Ausblick auf die übrigen Pteridophyten, Botanische Jahrbücher für Systematik, Pflanzengeschichte und Pflanzengeographie 60(4): 317-344.

--- (1928): Untersuchungen über den Blatt-und Wurzelwettbewerb in den heimischen Wäldern (p. 19-27),  Die Teufelsmauser bei Blankenburg a. H.: Eine pflanzengeographische Skizze (p. 28-37), both in: Jahresbericht des Vereins für Naturwissenschaft zu Braunschweig, 20, 19—27.

--- (1928): "Die Begriffe ""Stammeigene Bündel"" und ""Blattspurbundel"" im Lichte unserer heutigen Kenntnisse vom Aufbau und der physiologischen Wirkungsweise der Leitbündel, Jahrbücher für Wissenschaftlichen Botanik, vol. 69(2), p. 237-263. (this article triggered a debate with Sigmund Rehm who found contrarian results; see F.J. Meyer, 1936; and S. Rehn, 1936, Zur Entwicklungsphysiologie der Gefässe und des trachealen Systems, Planta, 26(2): p. 255-274).

--- (1929): Über Gefäßdurchbrechungen und die Frage der Unterscheidung von Gefässen und Tracheiden, Jahrbücher der Wissenschaftlichen Botanik, vol. 71, p. 161-183.

--- (1930): Die Leitbündel der Radices filipendulae (Wurzelanschwellungen) von Maranta Kerchoveana Morr, Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, Vol. 48(2), p. 51-57. 

--- (1930): Die Buchenwälder der Braunschweigischen Hügellands (p.9-18, 11 Figures); Über einige Eichenwalder in der Nähe von Braunscheig (p.29-44; 11 Figures); Die Pineta silvestris im Norden von Braunschweig (p. 45-62, 5 Figures), all in: Jahresbericht des Vereins für Naturwissenschaft zu Braunschweig 1930. Vol. 21.

--- (1931): Über die Unterscheidung der diaplektischen und radialen Leitbündel, Planta, Vol. 14 (3-4), October, p. 677-681.

--- (1932): Beitrage zur Anatomie der Alismataceen. I. Die Blatanatomie von Echinodorus, Beihefte zum Botanischen Centralblatt I, vol. 49, p. 309-368.

--- (1932): Beitrage zur Anatomie der Alismataceen. II Die Blattanatomie von Rautanenia schinzii Buchenau, Beihefte zum Botanischen Centralblatt I, vol. 50, 64-63.

--- (1932): Anatomie und systematische Stellung der Burnatia enneandara Micheli, Beihefte zum Botanischen Centralblatt, Supplement (Drude-Festschrift), vol. 49, p. 272-293. (to obtain all pages, follow the link and then stepwise increase the number)

--- (1932): Die Verwandtschaftsbeziehungen der Alismataceen zu den Ranales im Lichte der Anatomie, Botanische Jahrbücher 65, p. 53-59.

--- (1932): Blatt-und Wurzelwettbewerb im Sommerwald und Nadelwald, Repertorium specierum novarum regni vegetabilis: Beihefte, 66: p. 96-118.

--- (1933): ??? Botanische Jahrbücher, vol. 54 p. 494- (details unknown)

--- (1933): Beitrage zur vergleichenden Anatomie der Typhaceen (Gattung Typha), Beihefte zum Botanischen Centralblatt I, vol. 51, p. 335-376.

--- (1933): Über das Leitbündelsystem von Pandanus utilis und den Begriff der “zusammengesetzten Leitbündel”, Planta, Vol. 19(3,  May), p. 607-613.

--- (1933): Die Diaphragmen in den Blättern der Pandanales, Planta, Vol. 20, no. 1, 194-200. 

--- (1934): Ein neues Objekt für die Demonstration des Transpirationsstromes und der Wirkungsweise der Leitbündelverbindungen, Planta, Vol. 22(4), p. 567-572. 

--- (1934): Beitrage zur Anatomie der Alismataceen. III & IV Lophotocarpus und Limnophyton, Beihefte zum Botanisches Centralblatt B, vol. 52 p. 96-111.

--- (1935): Beitrage zur Anatomie der Aismataceen. V. Die Gattungen Damasonium und Alisma im Lichte der Anatomie, Beihefte zum Botanisches Centralblatt A, vol. 54 p. 156-169. (to obtain all pages, follow the link and then stepwise increase the number)

--- (1935): Über die Anatomie und die morphologische Natur der Bandblatter der Alismataceen, Flora, vol. 29 (4), p. 380-415.

--- (1935): Histologie und Phylogenie der Leitbündel von Primula Sect. Auricula, Planta, Vol. 23, no. 3, February, p. 378-383.

--- (1935): Untersuchungen an den Leitbündelsystemen der Alismataceenblätter als Beitrag zur Kenntnis der Bedingtheit und der Leistungen der Leitbündelverbindungen, Planta, Vol. 23(4), April, p. 557-592.  

--- (1935): Zur Frage der Funktion der Hydropoten, Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, vol. 53 (5), p. 542-546.

--- (1936): Beitrage zur Anatomie der Alismataceen. VI Die Blattanatomie von Wiesneria, Beihefte zum Botanisches Centralblatt A, vol. 54 p. 494-506.(to obtain all pages, follow the link and then stepwise increase the number)

--- (1936): Die systematische Bedeutung der Milchsaftgänge der Alismataceen, Englers Botanische Jahrbücher (cited 'in press' not seen the actual publication)

--- (1936): Über die Verwendbarkeit von Trypanblau bei physiologische-anatomischen Untersuchungen und die Frage der organeigenen Tracheen, Flora N.F., 30 (3), p. 291-304.

--- (1958): Beitrage zur Kenntnis der Assimilationsgewebe. I. Sekundares Erweiterungswachstum von Assimilationsgeweben. Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft 71. 282-92.

--- (1959): Beitrage zur Kenntnis der Assimilationsgewebe. II. Isodiametrische Assimilationszellen. Berichte der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft, Vol. 72, January p. 25-36.

--- (1959): Besondere Formen des Pflanzenwachstums, Orion 14(7): 536-541.  

Book Reviews

Meyer, Fritz Jürgen (1921): Besprechungen: Meyer, Arthur, Morphologische und physiologische Analyse der Zelle der Pflanze und Tiere, Grundzüge unseres Wissens über den Bau der Zelle und über dessen Beziehung zur Leistung der Zelle. I. Teil. Jena, G. Fischer, 1920, Naturwissenschaften, Vol. 9, no. 43, November, p. 928-929.

Fritz Jürgen Meyer (1927): (‘Besprechungen: ???’), Naturwissenschaften, Vol. 15, no. 6, February, p. 142-143.

 

 

© Klaus Meyer, 2008-2016

Disclaimer: Information in this essay has been reconstructed to the best of my knowledge from a variety of sources, yet given this historical nature of the data, I cannot vouch for its accuracy and completeness. If you have any complementary information, please contact me at km.cees@cbs.dk.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Solereder, H. (1899/1908): Systematic Anatomy of the Dicotyledons: A Handbook for Laboratories of Pure and Applied Botany. Translated by L.A. Boodle and F.E. Fritsch, rev. by D.H. Scott. Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1908. 2 vols. (Original publ. as: Systematische Anatomie der Dicotyledonen: Ein Handbuch für Laboratorien der Wissenschaftlichen und Angewandten Botanik. Stuttgart; F. Enke, 1899. Supplementary volume, 1908)

[2] Metcalfe, C.R. and Chalk, L.. Anatomy of the Dicotyledons; Leaves, Stem, and Wood in Relation to Taxonomy with Notes on Economic Uses. Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1950. 2 vols. (2d ed., 1979-1987, 3 vols.)

[3] Charles Metcalfe writes “Before embarking on this great undertaking, the matter was discussed by correspondence with Dr. F.J. Meyer, who, from 1929-1933, was, in collaboration with the late Professor Solereder, producing, in parts, a reference work entitled ‘Systematische Anatomy der Monokotyledonen”. Dr. Meyer informed me, however, that owing to various difficulties, including those of publication, he would be unable to finish the work … nobody apart from Solereder and Meyer has attempted to make a comprehensive survey of the anatomy of the Monocotyledons…” Metcalfe, C.F. (1954): Recent work on the systematic anatomy of the monocytoledons, Kew Bulletin 9 (4): 523-532. The link is also mentioned in a book review on one of the volumes published on the work at Kew Gardens in Systematic Botany [vol. 8(4): 478-479].

[4]  Metcalfe, C.R., ed. (1960-1982): Anatomy of the Monocotyledons. Oxford; Clarendon Press, 7 vols. (Vol. 1. Gramineae, by C.R. Metcalfe; Vol. 2. Palmae, by P.B. Tomlinson; Vol. 3. Commelinales-Zingiberales, by P.B. Tomlinson; Vol. 4. Juncales, by D.F. Cutler; Vol. 5. Cyperaceae, by C.R. Metcalfe; Vol. 6. Dioscoreales, by E.S. Ayensu; Vol. 7. Helobiae (Alismatidae), by P.B. Tomlinson.)

[5] Just, T. (1954): Book review of 'Kulturtechnische Botanik' by F.J. Meyer, Quarterly Review of Biology, p.370.

This site was last updated 08/07/16