In the mid-19th century, the zoologist Anton Dohrn (1840 – 1909), whose extensive personal papers are preserved by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, pursued the goal of establishing an institution on the Mediterranean Sea where biologists from all over the world could find ideal conditions for their research. His idea was to not only overcome national discrepancies, but to also bring together the various scientific and scholarly fields of specialisation with respect to questions of evolutionary biology.
The Zoological Station of Naples was opened in 1873. Dohrn financed the construction of the neoclassical building, the furnishing of the laboratories and the set-up of an internationally unique specialist library from his own funds, private donations and public subsidies. His project was supported by persons as famous as Charles Darwin, Karl Ernst von Baer, Thomas Henry Huxley, Emil du Bois-Reymond, Hermann von Helmholtz and Rudolf Virchow, among others. Almost all great zoologists of the time did research at the station. In the course of the years, for example, Fridtjof Nansen, Robert Koch, Theodor Boveri, Jacob van Rees, Nettie Stevens and Otto Warburg came to Naples.
After Anton Dohrn's death in the year 1909, the institution was directed by his son Reinhard, who likewise had studied biology. The institution still exists today, currently has almost 300 permanent employees and is funded by the Italian Ministry of Science and Research.
On the basis of numerous letters, i.a. from Charles Darwin, scientific manuscripts, photographs and drawings from the personal papers of Anton Dohrn, the virtual exhibition illustrates the scholarly and personal history of life of the zoologist and "science manager", as well as the history of the Zoological Station, in which scientists from all over the world conducted research on marine biology, and which served as a blueprint for many similar foundations.