Jens Johannes Jørgensen (1866-1956)

Writer, studied natural history from 1885.

As a young student Johannes Jørgensen was supported by the philosopher Harald Høffding, and when he commenced his career as a poet in 1886 he became part of the circle of young freethinkers who assembled around the literary critic Georg Brandes in Studentersamfundet [the Society of Students]. In 1885 Jørgensen joined, together with J.O. Bøving-Petersen, the first class of zoology students who was taught comparative embryology by Rudolf S. Bergh. These were the first lectures at the university based on evolutionary theory. In the first part of his autobiography entitled Den Røde Stjerne [The Red Star] (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1916), Jørgensen recalled his experiences as a young Darwinian zoologist in 1880s. He explained that the radical German naturalist Ernst Haeckel was the favourite writer of the students, who eagerly read his Natural History of Creation and admired his phylogenetic trees, while they did not value so much the British naturalists, whom they regarded as being too cautious in their writings. Among his teachers, the botanist Eugen Warming and the zoologist J.E.V. Boas were evolutionists while the older zoologist C.F. Lütken remained sceptical of the transmutation theory. In 1892 Jørgensen distanced himself from literary realism as advocated by Brandes, and launched the journal Taarnet [The Tower] which published symbolist and religious poetry. In 1896 Jørgensen converted to Catholicism, and eventually became an acclaimed orthodox Catholic poet and biographer.

Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

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