A Life among the Texas Flora: Ferdinand Lindheimer's Letters to George Engelmann. By
Minetta Altgelt Goyne. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991.
Pp. xvi+236. Preface, black-and-white photographs, illustration, notes, bibli-
ography, index. $44.50.)
With the publication of this attractive and satisfying volume, Ferdinand Lind-
heimer, the preeminent German-Texan naturalist of the nineteenth century, re-
ceives the attention his scientific work warrants. This study, which deals with half
of what makes Lindheimer significant in Texas history, the other half being his
newspaper career, is crafted around carefully edited and interpreted translations
of forty-one letters written by Lindheimer from Texas to the botanist George En-
gelmann in St. Louis. For the translations alone, Minetta Goyne deserves praise;
for her interpretations, she merits commendation.
Lindheimer (1802-1879), a native of Frankfurt on Main, was the most promi-
nent of the so-called Dreissiger, the refugees of the revolutions of the 1830s, in
Texas. He studied at Bonn and then returned to his native city to teach until af-
ter the liberal and nationalistic Frankfurter Putsch in 1833. Reaching Texas in
1836, after a leisurely route through New York, the Ohio and Mississippi valleys,
New Orleans, and Veracruz, he seems to have studied briefly with Engelmann in
St. Louis in 1839 and to have started botanical field work in Texas about 1841.
Until 1852, when he began to publish the German newspaper in New Braunfels,
collecting plant specimens for Engelmann and eventually for Asa Gray at Har-
vard was his main work and source of income. He also farmed, married, and
started a family.
Goyne's translations of the letters add important, confirming detail to the his-
tory of science in Texas, but more exciting than the letters is how Goyne reads
and connects them. With her academic background in German literary and cul-
tural history and her personal background as the scion of some leading German
families in Texas, she moves competently between immigration history and biog-
raphy on the one hand and intellectual and cultural history, on the other. Her
sure hand in drawing out interpretations, even from the physical and behavioral
characteristics of her subject, enables Goyne to place Lindheimer, and the variety
of dimensions which go into a life, in resonant contexts of Texas and German his-
tory, of romanticism, of the history of science in the American Southwest, and of
that curious blend of nineteenth-century ethical idealism which characterizes the
German settlement of Texas during the 183os and 1840s.
Someday a second study of Lindheimer, as the preeminent German-Texan
newspaper editor and publisher, will be written. One hopes that it will display
the simple richness of Goyne's present study and that it too will carefully apply
the methods of literary biography in seeking to understand this deep and sensi-
tive but reserved, even reticent, character in Texas history. One wishes that more
Texas biographies got into the "marrow" of the shapers of the region's history.
Our state's record would be more accurate and complete-and perhaps just as
GLEN E. LICH
Queretaro y Zacatecas, Mexico
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/. Accessed June 19, 2013.