Johannes Japetus Smith Steenstrup (1813-1897)

Professor of zoology 1845-85, studied natural history 1833-41 without any final examination, teacher at Sorø Academy 1841-45, father to Johannes Steenstrup, expert on cuttlefish and barnacles.

Although his scientific achievements were not impressive, Japetus Steenstrup was the most influential zoologist in nineteenth-century Denmark. As a teacher, popular lecturer, editor of scientific journals, university politician and member of the management of the Zoological Museum and the Carlsberg Foundation, he played a crucial role in the development of natural history and science in general. During Steenstrup’s professorship the university introduced an MSc degree in natural history (1848), established a Natural Science Faculty (1850) and built a new zoological museum (1870). Before 1848 it was not uncommon that students devoted to zoology studied at the university without being awarded an academic degree which would require comprehensive philological skills. Steenstrup’s scientific work was based on idealist morphology, and even though he discussed evolutionary theory with his students and corresponded with Charles Darwin, he never became an evolutionist. 

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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