Historical remarks by prof. Hans Trass
Tartu University, founded as Academia Gustaviana in 1632 had no separate chair in biology; courses on natural history were mainly presented in medical lectures by a few professors. After the reopening of the University in 1802, botany was taught at the Medical and Philosophical Faculties. The former had a Department of Botany and Materia Medica, the latter a Department of Natural History and Botany. The first professor of botany was Gottfried Albrecht Germann, who worked on the staff of the Philosophical Faculty from 1802 to 1809. He was also the head of the first Botanical Garden, founded in Tartu in 1803. The subsequent professors of botany were:
- C. Fr. Ledebour (1811-1836), corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, author of the first Russian flora - "Flora Rossica",
- Alexander Georg v. Bunge (1836 -1867), honourary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, the founder of the geographical- morphological method in plant taxonomy,
- Heinrich Moritz Willkomm (1868-1874), corresponding member of St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, investigator of the Pyrene Peninsula, dendrologist and phenologist,
- Edmund Russow (1874-1895), corresponding member of St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, cytologist, plant anatomist and sphagnologist,
- Nikolai Kuznetsov (1895-1914), corresponding member of St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, investigator of the flora of the Caucasus.
After the departure of N. Kuznetsov the chair of botany stayed unfulfilled for three years. M.Tswett, the founder of the chromatographical adsorption method, was the professor of botany for a short period (1917-1918). Zoologist H. (Reichenbach) Riikoja was temporary acting professor of botany (1918-1919).
After the establishment of Tartu University as the national Estonian language university in 1919, mycologist F. Bucholtz (1919-1923) became the professor of botany and head of the Botanical Institute. He was followed by H. Kaho (1923-1924), academician of the Estonian Academy of Sciences and plant physiologist; E. Spohr (1924-1930), researcher of water plants; T. Lippmaa (1930-1943), academician of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, biochemist, plant ecologist and geobotanist.
During the period of soviet occupation the heads of the Department of Plant Taxonomy and Geobotany at Tartu State University were: systematist August Vaga (1944-1956), academician of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, chief editor of the 11-volume "Flora of the Estonian S.S.R."; Hans Trass (1956-1962), academician of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, lichenologist and ecologist; Viktor Masing (1962-1964), academician of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, biogeographer and telmatologist, and again Hans Trass (1964-1991). In 1986 the department was renamed the Department of Botany and Ecology.
During the reorganization in 1992 four chairs were established: botany, plant ecology, mycology and ecophysiology.
During the period of independence the Institute of Botany and Ecology has been directed by professors
Martin Zobel 1991-1994
Jaanus Paal 1994-1999
Martin Zobel 1999-2004
Olevi Kull 2004-2007
Martin Zobel 2007-2008
The present head of the department is Kristjan Zobel, geobotanist and plant ecologist.