1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Beckmann, Johann

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BECKMANN, JOHANN (1739–1811), German scientific author, was born on the 4th of June 1739 at Hoya in Hanover, where his father was postmaster and receiver of taxes. He was educated at Stade and the university of Göttingen. The death of his mother in 1762 having deprived him of his means of support, he went in 1763 on the invitation of the pastor of the Lutheran community, Anton Friedrich Büsching, the founder of the modern historic statistical method of geography, to teach natural history in the Lutheran academy, St Petersburg. This office he relinquished in 1765, and travelled in Denmark and Sweden, where he studied the methods of working the mines, and made the acquaintance of Linnaeus at Upsala. In 1766 he was appointed extraordinary professor of philosophy at Göttingen. There he lectured on political and domestic economy with such success that in 1770 he was appointed ordinary professor. He was in the habit of taking his students into the workshops, that they might acquire a practical as well as a theoretical knowledge of different processes and handicrafts. While thus engaged he determined to trace the history and describe the existing condition of each of the arts and sciences on which he was lecturing, being perhaps incited by the Bibliothecae of Albrecht von Haller. But even Beckmann’s industry and ardour were unable to overtake the amount of study necessary for this task. He therefore confined his attention to several practical arts and trades; and to these labours we owe his Beiträge zur Geschichte der Erfindungen (1780-1805), translated into English as the History of Inventions—a work in which he relates the origin, history and recent condition of the various machines, utensils, &c., employed in trade and for domestic purposes. This work entitles Beckmann to be regarded as the founder of scientific technology, a term which he was the first to use in 1772. In 1772 Beckmann was elected a member of the Royal Society of Göttingen, and he contributed valuable scientific dissertations to its proceedings until 1783, when he withdrew from all further share in its work. He died on the 3rd of February 1811. Other important works of Beckmann are Entwurf einer allgemeinen Technologie (1806); Anleitung zur Handelswissenschaft (1789); Vorbereitung zur Warenkunde (1795-1800); Beiträge zur Ökonomie, Technologie, Polizei- und, Kameralwissenschaft (1777-1791).