By Vera Schwach
Bo Poulsen, Global Marine Science and Carlsberg. The Golden Connections of Johannes Schmidt (1877–1933), (Brill) Leiden/Boston, 2016, 524 pages, (illustrated, references and with an index).
By a historical coincidence, the celebrated brewery, Carlsberg, helped promote marine science during the period from around 1900 to 1930. The key actor in cajoling support from the Danish brewery and organizing scientific expeditions was the zoologist Johannes Schmidt. In this recently published biography, Poulsen studies how Schmidt managed to coordinate the efforts of a private foundation, public fisheries investigations in Denmark, and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). In doing so, he gives a profound analysis of how private and public means were successfully linked in the service of science and national honour. Schmidt launched twenty-six ocean expeditions but is most famous for his discovery of the breeding grounds of the Atlantic eel in the Sargasso Sea. Poulson’s book adds to the overall history of marine science, as it highlights the importance of collaborations between marine scientists from different countries and examines the numerous connections between science, the economy, and foreign policy. This finely written book provides historians with hitherto little-known information about the national Danish scene, and at the same time enriches the international field of the history of oceanography.
Bo Poulsen is Associate Professor of Environmental History at Aalborg University, in Denmark.