Georg Andreas (Jerzy Andrzej) Helwing (1666–1748) – zapomniany prekursor geologii i paleontologii na ziemiach polskich

Piotr Krzywiec, Aleksandra Arndt, Krystyna Jarosz, Piotr Szrek, Jakub Jakubowski


Georg Andreas (Jerzy Andrzej) Helwing (1666–1748) – forgotten pioneer of geology and palaeontology on Polish territory.
A b s t r a c t. Georg Andreas Helwing (1666–1748) spent most of his adult life as a Lutheran pastor in his native town of Węgorzewo (Angerburg), currently in NW Poland. He was well educated, studied at several universities, focusing on theology and botany. Helwing has been widely acknowledged for his work in botany; however, his achievements in the fields of geology and palaeontology are much less known. Helwing published two books containing illustrations of minerals and fossils from the territory of Poland: Lithographia Angerburgica (1717) and Lithographiae Angerburgicae pars II (1720). His first book contained the first-ever palaeontological illustrations to be published in Poland. It is divided into 7 chapters, with the first two chapters containing general information about Węgorzewo and its surroundings, and about various types of rocks and soils (Terris, “earths”); these are followed by chapters devoted to various “stones” (Lapidibus). Helwing collected his specimens in the Warmia – Mazury region, usually in close vicinity of Węgorzewo. Specimens described in his books included both autochthonous fossils found in situ, as well as allochthnonous fossils transported from Scandinavia by glaciers. The illustrations in Helwing’s book were drawn with high attention to detail and could be used for reliable palaeontological analysis. Helwing maintained close contact with some of the brightest minds in science in Europe, including famous naturalist Johann Jakob Scheuchzer from Zurich, often nicknamed “father of palaeobotany”. Four letters from Helwing to Scheuchzer are held in Zentralbibliothek in Zürich. The letters document that both scientists remained in close touch and that Helwing helped Scheuchzer with the preparation of an index for the second edition of one of the Scheuchzer’s most famous book Herbarium Diluvianum (1723) that included also Polish names of various species described in it.

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