Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen

Edition der naturwissenschaftlichen Schriften Lichtenbergs

While having taught physics at the university, his fame is due to his work as a writer

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799) is famous today for his achievements as a writer. Commonly he is regarded as the father of German aphorism. But indeed writing was for Lichtenberg not more than an avocation: by profession he was a professor of physics – and a dedicated one. “Physics indeed is the real study of man”, Lichtenberg wrote. His contemporaries viewed him as a physicist ranking among the best in Europe. Not until his unpublished works in natural science are known, is it to be judged to which degree Lichtenberg’s thinking has influenced the profession – arguably down to its very style.

Lichtenberg’s sons, who published the works of their late father in 1844, abstained from including his scientific writings in this edition. It was to make this part of his work accessible that the research center “Edition der naturwissenschaftlichen Schriften Lichtenbergs” (“Edition of Lichtenberg’s writings in natural science”) of the Göttingen Academy of Science was founded in 1997. The other research center concerning Lichtenberg, located at the Technical University of Darmstadt, is responsible for editing on the one hand those scientific writings by Lichtenberg, which have already been published, and on the other hand his humanities-related writings. The common mission of the research centers is one complete historicocritical edition – to lay the grounds for the next generation of Lichtenberg research.