Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Büsching, Anton Friedrich

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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition
Büsching, Anton Friedrich

BÜSCHING, Anton Friedrich (1724-1793), one of the founders of modern scientific geography, was born at Stadthagen in Schaumburg-Lippe, on the 27th September 1724. In his youth he was harshly treated by his father; but a clergyman of the name of Hauber, pleased with his talents, undertook to give him gratuitous instruction, and afterwards enabled him to continue his studies at Halle. There, by application and good conduct, he acquired numerous friends, and in 1748 was appointed tutor in the family of the Count de Lynars, who was then going as ambassador to St Petersburg. On this journey he became sensible of the defective state of geographical science, and resolved to devote his life to its improvement. Withdrawing as soon as possible from the count's family, he went to reside at Copenhagen, and devoted himself entirely to this new pursuit. In 1752 he published a Description of the Counties of Schleswig and Holstein, a work that was much approved. In 1754 he removed to Göttingen, and married Christiana Dilthey, a young lady of some temporary reputation as a poetess. Here a work in which he dissented from some of the Lutheran tenets lost him the appointment in 1757 to the theological chair, for which he had become a candidate. Two years later he was appointed professor of philosophy; but in 1761 he accepted an invitation to the German congregation at St Petersburg. There he organized a school, which, under his auspices, soon became one of the most flourishing in the North of Europe, but a disagreement with Marshal Munich led him, in spite of the empress's offers of high advancement, to return to Germany in 1765. He first went to live at Altona; but next year he was called to superintend an extensive educational establishment, known as the Greyfriars Gymnasium (Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster), which had been formed at Berlin by Frederick the Great. Here he superintended the progress of every pupil, and inspected the minutest details connected with the prosperity of the institution, besides giving lectures on the history of the arts and sciences. He continued to prosecute his various labours till a dropsy, under which he had long suffered, terminated his life on the 28th May 1793. His writings and example gave a new impulse to education throughout Prussia, and the Government was so sensible of the value of his services that they allowed his extensive correspondence to pass free of postage.

Few authors, even in Germany, liave been more prolific than Büsching. As enumerated by Meusel in his Lexicon of German Authors, his works amount to more than a hundred. They may be classed under the heads of Geography and History, Education, Religion, and Biography. The first class comprehends those upon which his fame chiefly rests; for although he did not possess the geographical genius of D'Anville, he may be regarded as the creator of modern Statistics. His magnum opus is the Neue Erdbeschreibung, (New Description of the Globe). The first four parts, which comprehend Europe, were published in four volumes (1754-1761), and have been translated into many of the European languages. They appeared in English with a preface by Murdoch, in six volumes 4to, London, 1762. In 1768 the fifth part was published, being the first volume upon Asia, containing Asiatic Turkey and Arabia. It displays an immense extent of research, and is generally considered as his masterpiece. Büsching was also the editor of a valuable collection entitled Magazin für Historie und Geographie, 2 vols. 4to, 1767-93; also of Wochentl. Nachrichten von neuen Landkarten, Berlin, 1773-87.

His elementary works on education long held a distinguished place in this branch of literature, but his theological writings are not much esteemed. In biography he wrote a number of articles for the above mentioned Magazin, and a valuable collection of Beiträge zur Lebensgeschichte merkwürdiger Personen, 6 vols. 1783-9, including a very elaborate life of Frederick the Great.