1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hermann, Friedrich Benedict Wilhelm von
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Hermann, Friedrich Benedict Wilhelm von
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HERMANN, FRIEDRICH BENEDICT WILHELM VON (1795-1868), German economist, was born on the 5th of December 1795, at Dinkelsbühl in Bavaria. After finishing his primary education he was for some time employed in a draughtsman's office. He then resumed his studies, partly at the gymnasium in his native town, partly at the universities of Erlangen and Würzburg. In 1817 he took up a private school at Nuremberg, where he remained for four years. After filling an appointment as teacher of mathematics at the gymnasium of Erlangen, he became in 1823 Privatdozent at the university in that town. His inaugural dissertation was on the notions of political economy among the Romans (Dissertatio exhibens sententias Romanorum ad oeconomiam politicam pertinentes, Erlangen, 1823). He afterwards acted as professor of mathematics at the gymnasium and polytechnic school in Nuremberg, where he continued till 1827. During his stay there he published an elementary treatise on arithmetic and algebra (Lehrbuch der Arith. u. Algeb., 1826), and made a journey to France to inspect the organization and conduct of technical schools in that country. The results of his investigation were published in 1826 and 1828 (Über technische Unterrichts-Anstalten). Soon after his return from France he was made professor extraordinarius of political science of the university of Munich, and in 1833 he was advanced to the rank of ordinary professor. In 1832 appeared the first edition of his great work on political economy, Staatswirthschaftliche Untersuchungen. In 1835 he was made member of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Sciences. From the year 1836 he acted as inspector of technical instruction in Bavaria, and made frequent journeys to Berlin and Paris in order to study the methods there pursued. In the state service of Bavaria, to which he devoted himself, he rose rapidly. In 1837 he was placed on the council for superintendence of church and school work; in 1839 he was entrusted with the direction of the bureau of statistics; in 1845 he was one of the councillors for the interior; in 1848 he sat as member for Munich in the national assembly at Frankfort. In this assembly Hermann, with Johann Heckscher and others, was mainly instrumental in organizing the so-called "Great German" party, and was selected as one of the representatives of their views at Vienna. Warmly supporting the customs union (Zollverein), he acted in 1851 as one of its commissioners at the great industrial exhibition at London, and published an elaborate report on the woollen goods. Three years later he was president of the committee of judges at the similar exhibition at Munich, and the report of its proceedings was drawn up by him. In 1855 he became councillor of state, the highest honour in the service. From 1835 to 1847 he contributed a long series of reviews, mainly of works on economical subjects, to the Münchener gelehrte Anzeigen and also wrote for Rau's Archiv der politischen Ökonomie and the Augsburger allgemeine Zeitung. As head of the bureau of statistics he published a series of valuable annual reports (Beiträge zur Statistik des Königreichs Bayern, Hefte 1-17, 1850-1867). He was engaged at the time of his death, on the 23rd of November 1868, upon a second edition of his Staatswirthschaftliche Untersuchungen, which was published in 1870.
Hermann's rare technological knowledge gave him a great advantage in dealing with some economic questions. He reviewed the principal fundamental ideas of the science with great thoroughness and acuteness. "His strength," says Roscher, "lies in his clear, sharp, exhaustive distinction between the several elements of a complex conception, or the several steps comprehended in a complex act." For keen analytical power his German brethren compare him with Ricardo. But he avoids several one-sided views of the English economist. Thus he places public spirit beside egoism as an economic motor, regards price as not measured by labour only but as a product of several factors, and habitually contemplates the consumption of the labourer, not as a part of the cost of production to the capitalist, but as the main practical end of economics.
See Kautz, Gesch. Entwicklung d. National-Ökonomik, pp. 633-638; Roscher, Gesch. d. Nat.-Ökon. in Deutschland, pp. 860-879.