Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck in 1855
Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck (February 14, 1776 - March 16, 1858) was a prolific German botanist, physician, zoologist, and natural philosopher. He was a contemporary of Goethe and was born within the lifetime of Linnaeus. He described approximately 7,000 plant species (almost as many as Linnaeus himself). His last official act as president of the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina was to admit Charles Darwin as a member. He was the author of numerous monographs on botany and zoology. His best-known works deal with fungi.
Nees von Esenbeck was born in a small village in what is now Odenwaldkreis, Germany. He showed an early interest in science and went on to obtain his degree in medicine in 1800. He practiced as a physician for a time, but he had developed a great interest in botany during his university studies, and eventually he returned to academia. In 1816 he joined the Leopoldina Academy, which was one of the most prestigious institutions in Europe. In 1817 he was appointed professor of botany in Erlangen; in 1818 he was elected president of the Leopoldina Academy. He continued as president of the academy for the rest of his life.
In 1848 he became politically active, and due to conflicts with the government he eventually lost his professorship and pension at the university of Breslau. Nees von Esenbeck died essentially penniless in Breslau.
The standard botanical author abbreviation Nees is applied to species he described.
Theodor Friedrich Ludwig Nees von Esenbeck (1787-1837), Christian's younger brother, was also a noted botanist and pharmacologist who contributed particularly to the systematic study of the medicinal uses of plants.