Christian Konrad Sprengel

Christian Konrad Sprengel
Christian Konrad Sprengel

Christian Konrad Sprengel
Born 22 September 1750
Brandenburg an der Havel
Died 7 April 1816
Nationality German
Fields natural history
Alma mater University of Halle-Wittenberg
Known for plant sexuality

Christian Konrad Sprengel (22 September 1750 – 7 April 1816) was a German theologist, teacher and, most importantly, a naturalist. He is most famously known for his research into plant sexuality.

Sprengel was born in Brandenburg an der Havel in the Margraviate of Brandenburg. He studied theology in Halle. In 1774 he became a teacher in Berlin. After 1787, Sprengel did considerable research on the pollination of plants and the interaction between flowers and their insect visitors in what was later called a pollination syndrome. With his work Das entdeckte Geheimnis der Natur im Bau und in der Befruchtung der Blumen (Berlin 1793), he was one of the founders of pollination ecology as a scientific discipline. Together with one of his predecessors, Josef G. Köhlreuter, he is still the classic author in this field.

During his lifetime, his work was neglected, not only because it seemed to a lot of his contemporaries as obscene that flowers had something to do with sexual functions, but also because the immanent importance of his findings on the aspects of selection and evolution was not recognized. Until Charles Darwin's book On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing (London 1862), floral ecology was not considered a 'proper science'.

Important successors like Paul Knuth, Fritz Knoll and Hans Kugler were inspired by Sprengel and brought great advances to the field of pollination ecology. After the second World War, their work was continued by Stefan Vogel, Knut Faegri, Leendert van der Pijl, Amos Dafni, G. Ledyard Stebbins as well as Herbert Baker and Irene Baker.

Sprengel is buried at the Invalidenfriedhof in Berlin. A small monument designed after the frontispiece of his fundamental work can be seen in Berlin Botanical Gardens.


  • VOGEL, S. (1996): Christian Konrad Sprengel's Theory of the Flower: The Cradle of Floral Ecology. In: LLOYD, D. G. & BARRET, S. C. H. (Eds.). Floral Biology: Studies on Floral Evolution in animal-Pollinated Plants. Chapman & Hall, New York.
  • Zepernick, B. & Meretz, W. 2001: Christian Konrad Sprengel’s life in relation to his family and his time. On the occasion of his 250th birthday. – Willdenowia 31: 141-152.

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