The New International Encyclopædia/Bunsen, Christian Karl Josias, Baron
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Bunsen, Christian Karl Josias, Baron
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BUNSEN, bōōns'en, Christian Karl Josias, Baron (1791-1860). A German scholar and diplomatist. He was born August 25, 1791, at Korbach, in the Principality of Waldeck, and studied philology at Göttingen under Heyne. He taught in the Latin school there and was private tutor to W. C. Astor, of New York, with whom he traveled in Germany in 1813. To extend his knowledge of the Teutonic tongues, Bunsen went to Holland and afterwards to Copenhagen. The work and character of Niebuhr (q.v.) aroused his enthusiasm, and he spent some months of 1815 in Berlin in the company of the historian. In 1816 he went to Paris, and studied Persian and Arabic under Sylvestre de Sacy, and in the same year removed to Rome, where he married. Niebuhr, then Prussian Ambassador, took the greatest interest in the scientific pursuits of Bunsen, and procured (1818) his appointment as secretary to the embassy. While Frederick William III. was in Rome in 1822, he formed a favorable opinion of Bunsen's ability and character, and requested him to continue in the State service. On Niebuhr's departure from Rome (1824), Bunsen conducted the embassy provisionally for a time, and was then appointed Resident Minister (1827). Living in intimate intercourse with Niebuhr, Bunsen had employed the time in prosecuting his investigations into the philosophy of language and religion, and had made, on the one hand, the philosophy of Plato and the constitutions of antiquity, and, on the other, biblical inquiries, Church history, and liturgies, objects of special attention. Though not within the scope of the great plan of his life, he contributed largely to the Beschreibung der Stadt Rom (3 vols., 1830-43) the greater part of the topographical communications on ancient Rome, and all the investigations into the early history of Christian Rome. The first visit of the Egyptologist Champollion (q.v.) to Rome formed an epoch in Bunsen's antiquarian studies. He became himself a zealous auditor of Champollion, and also encouraged Lepsius (q.v.) in the study of hieroglyphics. The Archæological Institute, established in 1829, found in Bunsen its most active supporter. He founded the Protestant hospital on the Tarpeian Rock in 1835. During his residence in Rome he contributed largely to the revision of the Lutheran liturgy.
In 1841 Bunsen was sent on a special mission to London and was shortly afterwards appointed Ambassador at the English Court. In Berlin, in 1844, he was asked to set forth his views on the question of granting a constitution to Prussia; and he presented a series of memorials representing the need of a deliberative assembly, and also made a plan of a constitution modeled on that of England. In the Sehleswig-Holstein question, Bunsen strongly advocated the German view, in opposition to Denmark, and protested against the London protocol of 1850, although he was prevailed upon to sign that of 1852 respecting the succession in Denmark and Sehleswig-Holstein. In the midst of all his political duties, Bunsen continued unabated his literary and philosophical pursuits, the results of which appeared from time to time. Because he differed from his Government as to the part Prussia should take in the Eastern Question (q.v.), Bunsen ceased in 1854 to represent Prussia at the Court of England, and retired to Heidelberg. He had a deep appreciation of English national characteristics. In England he was regarded by those who knew him as the most philosophical and most reverent of lay theologians. His chief works are: De Iure Atheniensium Hœreditario (1813); Die Kirche der Zukunft (translated into English, and published by Longman, 1845); Ignatius von Antiochien und seine Zeit (1847); Die drei echten und die vier unechten Briefe des Ignatius von Antiochien (1847); Aegyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschichte (translated into English by Cottrell, 1845-47); Die Basiliken des christlichen Roms (1843); Hippolytus und seine Zeit (1851); Christianity and Mankind (1854); Gott in der Geschichte (1857); and Vollständiges Bibelwerk für die Gemeinde (9 vols., 1858-70). This Bunsen hoped to make his chief work, but he only completed the first, second, and fifth volumes, the others being from his notes by Holtzmann and Kamphausen. Bunsen was created a baron in 1857, and died in Bonn, November 28, 1860. Consult A Memoir of Baron Bunsen, by his wife (London, 1868).