Lavater, Johann Caspar, 1741-1801

Alternative names
Birth 1741-11-15
Death 1801-01-02
French, German

Biographical notes:

German author and physiognomist.

From the description of Vermischte physiognomische Regeln : Manuscript fuer Freunde, 1789. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122497464

From the guide to the Vermischte physiognomische Regeln : Manuscript fuer Freunde, 1789, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Swiss physiognomist.

From the description of Letter, 1781, Mar. 16 : Zürich. (Duke University). WorldCat record id: 35130848

Swiss scholar.

From the description of Regles physionomiques; ou, observations sur quelques traits caracteristiques (treatise on physiognomy), 1795. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 86093271

Swiss poet, theologian, mystic, and physiognomist.

From the description of Andenken en Liebe Reisende : autograph manuscript signed : Zürich, 1787 July 9-1788 Nov. 8. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270870145

From the description of Letter signed : Zurich, to Mr. Tighe, 1788 Nov. 29. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270598244

From the description of Autograph letter signed : Zurich, to educational councillor Lampe in Salz-Dalum, 1787 Nov. 24. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270598248

From the description of Autograph letter signed : [Zurich?], to Philipp Erasmus Reich, bookseller in Leipzig, 1776 May 30. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270598238

Johann Caspar Lavater was born in Zürich in 1741, the son of a physician. He trained as a clergyman and at the beginning of his career campaigned successfully against corruption in the government of the canton. Having made many local enemies during this controversy, he undertook a journey with his friend Heinrich Füssli through northern Germany, where he met several prominent authors and public figures. Upon his return to Switzerland, he became increasingly well known as an eloquent preacher, which led finally to his appointment as deacon (1778) and then pastor (1786) of St. Peter's Church in Zürich. His later years were overshadowed by political events. Because of his outspoken criticism of the government, he came under suspicion of collaboration with Russia and Austria and was arrested in May 1799 and deported to Basel. Released in June, he returned to Zürich where, in September, he was himself wounded while trying to help wounded soldiers during the occupation of the city by the French. His injuries resulted in a long and painful illness, of which he died on 2 January 1801.

Lavater's numerous published works include poems, prose works devoted to his emotional, pietistic brand of Christianity, and the famous Physiognomische Fragmente, published in four volumes between 1775 and 1778 and illustrated with many engravings. Lavater's friendship with Goethe began by letter in 1772. They first met in 1774, and, as is well known, Goethe made minor contributions to the Physiognomische Fragmente . The friendship cooled during the early 1780s as Goethe became alienated by Lavater's growing religious fanaticism.

From the guide to the Lavater collection., 1775-1816, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


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  • Science, Technology, and Health
  • Manuscripts--German
  • Physiognomy--Early works to 1800
  • Science
  • Physiognomy


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  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)