Johann Jakob Scheuchzer

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Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (August 2, 1672 – June 23, 1733) was a Swiss scholar born at Zürich.



The son of the senior town physician (Archiater) of Zürich, he received his education in that place, and, in 1692, went to the University of Altdorf near Nuremberg, being intended for the medical profession. Early in 1694 he took his degree of doctor in medicine at the University of Utrecht, and then returned to Altdorf, Germany to complete his mathematical studies. He went back to Zürich in 1696 and was made junior town physician (Poliater) with the promise of the professorship of mathematics which he duly obtained in 1710. He was promoted to the chair of physics, with the office of senior town physician, in January 1733, only a few months before his death on June 23.

Published Works

His published works (apart from numerous articles) were estimated at thirty-four in number. His historical writings are mostly still in manuscript. The more important of his published writings relate either to his scientific observations (all branches) or to his journeys, in the course of which he collected materials for these scientific works.

Scientific works

In the former category is his self-published Beschreibung der Naturgeschichte des Schweitzerlandes (3 vols., Zürich, 1706–1708), the third volume containing an account in German of his journey of 1705; a new edition of this book and, with important omissions, of his 1723 work, was issued, in 2 vols, in 1746, by JG Sulzer, under the title of Naturgeschichte des Schweitzerlandes sammt seinen Reisen über die schweitzerischen Gebirge, and his Helvetiae historia naturalis oder Naturhistorie des Schweitzerlandes (published in 3 vols, at Zürich, 1716–1718, and reissued in the same form in 1752, under the German title just given). The first of the three parts of the last-named work deals with the Swiss mountains (summing up all that was then known about them, and serving as a link between Simmler's work of 1574 and Gruner's of 1760), the second with the Swiss rivers, lakes and mineral baths, and the third with Swiss meteorology and geology.

Scheuchzer’s works, as issued in 1746 and in 1752, formed (with Tschudi's Chronicum Helveticum) one of the chief sources for Schiller's drama Wilhelm Tell (1804). In 1704 Scheuchzer was elected FRS; he published many scientific notes and papers in the Philosophical Transactions for 1706-1707, 1709 and 1727-1728.

Travel works

In the second category are his Itinera alpina tria (made in 1702-1704), which was published in London in 1708, and dedicated to the Royal Society, while the plates illustrating it were executed at the expense of various fellows of the society, including the president, Sir Isaac Newton (whose imprimatur appears on the title-page), Sir Hans Sloane, Dean Aldrich, Humfrey Wanley, etc. The text is written in Latin, as is that of the definitive work describing his travels (with which is incorporated the 1708 volume) that appeared in 1723 at Leiden, in four quarto volumes, under the title of Itinera per Helvetiae alpinas regiones facta annis 1702-1711.

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