The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich

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JACOBI. I. Friedrich Heinrich, a German philosopher, born in Düsseldorf, Jan. 25, 1743, died in Munich, March 10, 1819. In his 18th year he was sent to Geneva to complete his mercantile apprenticeship, and during a residence there of three years studied mathematics, medicine, and philosophy. On his return to Düsseldorf he was placed at the head of his father's mercantile establishment, and soon after married; but in 1770 he renounced commerce, being appointed councillor of finance for the duchies of Berg and Jülich. This office allowed him to indulge his tastes for literature and philosophy, and he was soon associated or in correspondence with Wieland, Goethe, Herder, Lessing, Hamann, Lavater, Richter, Kant, Fichte, Reinhold, and other leading thinkers. His country seat at Pempelfort, near Düsseldorf, was after Weimar and the university towns the most remarkable literary centre in Germany. On the French invasion in 1794 he took refuge in the north of Germany, and passed ten years in Wandsbeck, Hamburg, and Eutin, engaged in literary and philosophical studies, till in 1804 he was called to Munich as a member of the newly formed academy of sciences, of which he became president in 1807. He resigned in 1813, but the title and salary were continued to him till his death. In youth Jacobi had been led to singularly intense religious and philosophical meditations. At the age of eight the idea of eternity struck him so clearly and forcibly that he fell fainting with a shriek. The thought of annihilation and the perspective of an infinite duration long weighed equally upon his mind as terrible and insupportable conceptions. The perusal of Kant's tractate on the proofs for the being of a God produced on him the most violent palpitation of the heart. He at length was able to check this susceptibility, but even in 1787 he affirmed his belief that, if he should yield to it, a few successive shocks would kill him. His first works were the philosophical romances Woldemar (Flensburg, 1779) and Eduard Allwill's Briefsammlung (Königsberg, 1781), the former of which reveals his ethical system, making morality a matter of instinctive sentiment, rational intuition, or divine impulse. It was never his purpose to develop any connected system, and his philosophical writings are all brief. The first was Ueber die Lehre des Spinoza, in Briefen an Mendelssohn (Breslau, 1785), in which he assails Spinozism as a type of all formal, rationalistic, demonstration-seeking systems. His doctrine is more fully developed in his dialogue entitled David Hume über den Glauben, oder Idealismus und Realismus (Breslau, 1787). His relation to the Kantian critical philosophy appeared in his essay Ueber das Unternehmen des Kriticismus, die Vernunft zu Ventande zu bringen (1802). His principal works, besides those already mentioned, are Sendschreiben an Fichte (Hamburg, 1799), and Von den göttlichen Dingen und ihrer Offenbarung (Leipsic, 1811), which occasioned a controversy with Schelling. His collected works were published at Leipsic (6 vols., 1812-'24), to which his letters were added (2 vols., 1825-'7). II. Johann Georg, a German poet, brother of the preceding, born in Düsseldorf, Dec. 2, 1740, died in Freiburg, Baden, Jan. 4, 1814. After studying theology and literature at Göttingen, he was appointed in 1765 professor of philosophy and eloquence at Halle, became soon after intimately associated with Gleim, in 1769 received a canonry at Halberstadt, and devoted himself to poetry till in 1784 he became professor of belles-lettres at Freiburg. His poems are marked especially by grace and purity of diction. His complete works were published at Zürich (7 vols., 1807-'22). III. Maximilian, a German physician, son of F. H. Jacobi, born in Düsseldorf, April 10, 1775, died at Siegburg, near Bonn, May 18, 1858. He studied at Jena, Göttingen, Edinburgh, and Erfurt, was for a time assistant in a London hospital, and afterward director of an insane asylum at Salzburg. He early embraced the views of Pinel and Tuke on the subject of non-restraint, and sought to introduce them throughout Germany. About 1820 he was selected to take charge of the insane hospital at Siegburg. He published several essays on the treatment of the insane, and a work on “Construction and Management of Lunatic Hospitals” (1834), and was a frequent contributor to the Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie. On the 50th anniversary of his doctorate (1857) a festival was held in his honor, attended by distinguished men from England and France as well as from every part of Germany. At this festival an association was organized called the Jacobi foundation, for the improvement of physicians, officers, nurses, and attendants in the care of the insane.