[Index of Biographies]
Georg Christoph Pisanski (1725-1790)
[This is a draft of an article in The Dictionary of Eighteenth Century German Philosophers, 3 vols., edited by Manfred Kuehn and Heiner Klemme (London/New York: Continuum, 2010).]
Georg Christoph Pisanski was born 13 August 1725 in Johannisburg (in Prussia, c.150 km south-east of Königsberg) and died 11 October 1790 in Königsberg. He was the son of a pastor, and became a prolific writer, poet, and literary historian of Prussia.
Pisanski matriculated at the university in Königsberg as a scholarship student in 1742, focusing on theology, philosophy, and natural science. He gave private lessons and worked as an amanuensis to help pay his way. He discontinued his studies in 1748 to teach at a local gymnasium, the Altstadt School, becoming the assistant rector (1750) and then rector (1751) of that school, and in 1759 the rector at the Cathedral School (replacing C. C. Flottwell), which he retained until his death. He also received his magister degree in 1759, habilitating with a disputation on the immortality of the soul (April 9), and began lecturing at the university in philosophy, history, and rhetoric, and assumed the directorship of the Royal German Society (until 1766). Fourteen years later he also received a doctorate in theology (1773) and was promoted to associate professor of theology (giving his inaugural address on November 25). He was appointed consistory advisor in 1789. During his years at the university he received various offers of full professorships (the poetry chair in 1762, the practical philosophy chair in 1780, as well as a chair in theology), but turned them all down, claiming they involved too much administrative work (e.g., sitting on the Academic Senate and serving periodically as dean of the faculty and rector of the university). A Masurian by birth, he was adept in Polish, as well as German and Latin.
Pisanski’s religious orientation tended towards the orthodox with an anti-Enlightenment bent, and he was one of several Königsberg theologians to condemn the theologian and freemason Johann August Starck (Antihephästion, 1776). He was a prolific author — one incomplete list of his publications came to 288, of which 162 were Latin and German poems — but his reputation rests primarily on his writings on local and literary history, the major work here being his Preußische Literärgeschichte (1790), a tour de force of intellectual history and “a description of the scholarly world in which he moved” (Philippi).
Antihephästion (Danzig: Jobst Herrmann Flörke, 1776).
Entwurf einer preussischen Literargeschichte in vier Bucher, mit einer Notiz uber den Autor und sein Buch, ed. by Rudolf Philippi (Königsberg, 1886). Orig. publ.: Königsberg 1790. Reprint: Hamburg 1994.
ADB, vol. 26, pp. 179-80 (K. Lohmeyer).
APB, vol. 2, p. 503 (Lehnerdt).
Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Fortgesetzte Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1769), p. 160.
DLL, vol. 11, cols. 1336-37 (Ingrid Bigler).
Gause, Fritz, Die Geschichte der Stadt Königsberg in Preussen, 2nd enlarged ed., 3 vols. (Köln, 1996), vol. 2, pp. 137, 240.
Goldbeck, Johann Friedrich, Nachrichten von der Königlichen Universität zu Königsberg in Preußen, und den daselbst befindlichen Lehr- Schul- und Erzeihungsanstalten (Dessau, 1782), pp. 68, 88.
Jöcher/Adelung (1819), vol. 6, col. 275.
Metzger, Johann Daniel, Über die Universität zu Königsberg. Ein Nachtrag zu Arnoldt und Goldbeck (Königsberg, 1804), p. 36-37.
Meusel (1810), vol. 10, pp. 432-38.
Philippi, Rudolf, "Der Autor und sein Buch" in Pisanski 1886, pp. viii-xx.
Pisanski, Georg Christoph, Entwurf einer preussischen Literargeschichte in vier Buchern: mit einer Notiz uber den Autor und sein Buch, edited by Rudolf Philippi (Königsberg: 1886), pp. 475, 565, 644. Reprint: Hamburg, 1994.
Schlichtegroll (1790), vol. 2, p. 343.