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Acta Hist Leopoldina. 2008;(49):63-114.

[Academy idea and Curiositas as leitmotif of the early modern Leopoldina].

[Article in German]

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Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.


Founded in 1652, the Academia Naturae Curiosorum fiercely defended this name, which it wished to bear. On the occasion of the founder's 400th birthday, this article will try to examine the objectives of the concept of academia and the understanding of curiositas in its historical context, with a focus on the early history of the academy up to its receipt of imperial privilege in 1687/88. This is done in four chapters (I-IV). The memorial occasion suggests a preliminary note on our contemporary situation: I. The Jubilee Triangle--Berlin (Berlin academies), Halle-Wittenberg (university), Schweinfurt-Halle (Leopoldina)--considering the fate of the different historical models of scholarly organizations before and after the political turnaround (die "Wende") in 1989/90. The main questions about the 17th century orient themselves around the founding documents, the imperial status of the foundational city, as well as the Bausch family's places of study, educational travels, and library.--II. The Imperially Privileged Leopoldina--"Academy" or "Society"? This question's point of departure is the incipient engagement--the year after J. L. Bausch died (1665)--of G. W. Leibniz, who had likewise earned his doctorate at the University of Altdorf. He was engaged for his state-based vision of society that considered scholarly critique of hitherto extant academies, including the curiosité of the Collegium Medicorum. The summing up of the naturae-curiosi's pursuit of imperial privilege emphasizes the denominational controversy, which pitted the imperial counsellors against the societal Nomen preferred by Vienna. The attempt to interpret both sides of the argument deals on the one hand with the semantic expansion to universities of the concept of academia, inspired by humanism and the reception of Roman law; this expansion also affected the imperial reservation rights (exemplary references to legal argumentation from the work on imperial publicity by Ch. Besold). On the other hand, it deals with aspects of privilege law, regarding the development of new kinds of higher learning institutions and university politics in the imperial city in the confessional era ("Semi-Universities"/"Academies" Strassburg, Nuremberg-Altdorf). This is followed by a thematic balancing.--Chapter III. Curiositas as an Early Modern Leitmotif of Natural Science Academies refers first to the multivalent popular usage of the fashionable and borrowed German word "Kuriosität" [curiosity] during the Enlightenment, then inquires about the word's original definitions in ancient and medieval scholarly traditions. In the age of humanist source study and expeditions into "new worlds", the concept of curiositas as an (ethically ambivalent) "desire for knowledge" was revitalized; this is exemplified by two types of sources: the report of the Orient and Brazil explorer André Thevet and the literarily virulent figure (around 1600) of knowledge-thirsty Faust. A reexamination of the academy's foundational documents, in conjunction with the peregrinatio academica of Schweinfurt doctors to Italy, confirms the old question, now newly posed, about the methodological and programmatic signal of the curiositas device. The self-reflection of the naturae-curiosi and their focus on observational development and natural-historical classifications in the area of "materia medica" show--besides other advances in scholarship in the early 17th century--clear correlation with the "phenomenology of modern thought" that is so often discussed today. However, there must be an evolutionary and innovative differentiation from what would later be called "natural science" disciplines (like biology, zoology, mineralogy, chemistry), as opposed to an all-inclusively defined "scientific revolution", which pertains to astronomical and mathematical ways of thinking, as well as new insights in the physical-instrumental field.--Chapter IV. The Urban Medical Profession Between Scholarly Medicine and Practice applies to the life of the academy's founders as urban physici with supervisional functions determined by their classification into the profession's historical three-part organization of medical personell, and into the forms of "public" health care; here, upper German imperial cities had been influenced by Italian city-states concerning trade relations and printing. Exemplary emphasis is given to developments in Nuremberg (Collegium Medicum and Collegium Pharmaceuticum 1632, medicinal organization 1652) in consideration of the professional circumstances of doctors and pharmacists. Thanks to their educational travels through Italy or The Netherlands, the Bausch's, both father and sons, were able to gain important experience for their future professional practice. These included impressions not only of the academic movement, but also of the networks of museum-like cabinets, anatomical theaters and botanical gardens associated with universities and pharmacies. A concluding look touches on the status of doctors and pharmacists--two traditionally separate healing professions that were nonetheless jointly responsible for the health of their patients--in the religious horizon of the confessional era.

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