KANT IN THE CLASSROOM     Materials to aid the study of Kant’s lectures

Kant’s Writings
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Kant’s Life


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Kant’s Rise to Full Professor
> Salaries and Benefits
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Kant’s Lectures
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Salaries and Benefits

“Whoever devotes himself to the university at Königsberg takes the vow of poverty.”

— C. J. Kraus (1753-1807)[1]

“What increases the evil of poverty is contempt, which cannot be completely overcome even by merit, at least not before common eyes.”

— Kant, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful
and the Sublime
(1764) [AA 2: 213]

1. Salaries: [Königsberg salaries] [Kant’s salary]
2. Benefits
3. Extra Income

Salaries [top] [currency conversion]

Despite Kraus’s dire sentiment expressed above and which the historical record rather consistently vindicates, Kant denied having had any financial problems of his own — although the strength of this denial might in part stem from a sensitivity to his earlier poverty as a university student.  Carl Johann Maria Denina (1731-1813) wrote a history of Prussian intellectual life [1790, 305-8] that portrayed Kant as having come from a poor home and who had to support himself as a young lecturer by giving private lessons, and that he likely would have starved had not his friend Green invited him regularly to dinner.  In a letter to his one-time Berlin publisher François de la Garde, Kant asks de la Garde to extend his greetings to Denina but to please have him correct the misinformation in future printings of his book:

He has certainly been misinformed.  For I have always had a full lecture hall from the very beginning of my academic career (in 1755) and never had to give private lessons [Privatinformationen] (it must be assumed he meant by that the privatissima seminar held in one’s own lecture room, and which is usually very well paid), consequently my income has always been ample, so that it sufficed not only for the rent on my two rooms and my very well laden table, without my having to ask for help from anyone, in particular not from my late English friend [Green] who was my regular dinner guest without needing any special invitation, and besides this I was always able to afford my own servant.  Those were just the most pleasant years of my life.  And a proof of this is that I turned down four invitations to positions at other universities during that period.[2]

Kant’s income as a lecturer is unknown other than through Kant’s own general claims of self-sufficiency — although Jachmann reports in his biography that Kant’s lecturing income in these early years was “very small” and that he was forced to sell books from his small library to make ends meet [1804, 12-13], and Kant himself reported in a letter of 9 May 1791 to a former student, Sigismund Beck [bio], who just beginning his teaching career at Halle, that “the pay from giving lectures is always very precarious.” [AA 11: 256; “die auf bloßer Lesung von Collegien beruht, immer sehr mislich ist”]. A letter that Kant wrote to J. G. Lindner [bio] near the beginning of winter semester 1759/60 also suggests a financial strain:

For my part I sit daily at the anvil of my lectern and guide the heavy hammer of repetitious lectures, constantly beating out the same rhythm. Now and then I am stirred by some nobler inclination, a desire to extend myself beyond this narrow sphere; but the blustering voice of Need immediately attacks me and, always truthful in its threats, promptly drives me back to hard work. [AA 10:18-19; Zweig transl. (1999, 56)][(full text)]

Ich meines theils sitze täglich vor dem Ambos meines Lehrpults und führe den schweeren Hammer sich selbst ähnlicher [19] Vorlesungen in einerley tacte fort. Bisweilen reitzt mich irgendwo eine Neigung edlerer Art mich über diese enge Sphäre etwas auszudehnen allein der Mangel mit ungestühmer Stimme so gleich gegenwärtig mich auzufallen und immer warhaftig in seinen Drohungen treibt mich ohne Verzug zur schweren Arbeit zurück.

There is also evidence that, in these early years as a Privatdozent, Kant was taking in students at the unversity and supervising their studies (somewhat in the manner of a Hofmeister — see Rink [1805, 28] [text]), and also giving private lessons to one or more nephews of Gräfin Kayserling [bio] — and possibly also to her two sons — at their Capustigall residence south of Königsberg [more].

The honoraria paid to Kant by students attending his lectures was 4 rthl. per student per class, but either he had very few students attending his classes, or else very few of these ever paid the honoraria. We know that Kant waived the honoraria for poorer students, but Voigt [1819, 437-38], in his biography of Kraus, claims that Kant, out of principle, generally required students to pay-up.[3]  Apart from that, Kant would have drawn some earnings from his publications and, from March 1766 until April 1772, he received a salary of 62 rthl. (plus benefits such as firewood) for his work as the assistant librarian at the castle library (Schloßbibliothek).[4]  Once Kant was promoted to full professor (of logic and metaphysics) in 1770, he began to receive a steady salary of 166 rthl. 60 gr.[5] 

[1] This quote by C. J. Kraus comes from a letter to Karl Ludwig Pörschke, who was applying to teach at the university.  Pörschke would eventually be appointed as full professor of poetry there, and then full professor of practical philosophy after Kraus’s death [Voigt 1819, 436-7; repr. in Malter 1980, 174].

[2] Kant’s letter of 25 March 1790 to François de la Garde [AA 11:146; Zweig 1999, 341].  Zweig’s translation is slightly modified.  Compare this with Christoph Friedrich Heilsberg’s account of Kant’s impoverished student days when he did tutor students for money, as well as play billiards [more] [Reicke 1860, 48-49; repr. in Malter 1990, 18-19]. There is also the comment in Rink [1805, 28] [text] that Kant took in a few students during his early years as a lecturer — but perhaps he did not give them any tutorials.

[3] Kant's first salary as a full professor was about 166 rthl. per year, which is less than the honoraria from 42 students in that year, or 21 per semester, or just 4-5 paying students per course taught. Kant appears to have finally enjoyed some financial stability with this salaried position, such that he gave up his lesser paying job as an assistant librarian (this was 62 rthl., or just 15 honoraria).

[4] The appointment letter from Berlin was dated 17 Feb 1766 and the installation order from von Braxein was dated 12 Mar 1766, and he began work on April 9; Kant’s resignation letter was dated 14 Apr 1772 [Warda 1899b].  Kant had petitioned King Frederich II for this position in a letter of 24 October 1765 [#30; AA 10:48-49], which would “ease my rather difficult subsistence at the university here” [zur Erleichterung meiner sehr mißlichen Subsistenz auf der hiesigen Akademie].

See also his petition to Freiherr von Fürst u. Kupferberg, the current Oberkurator of the Prussian universities (29 October 1765; #31, AA 10:49-50); in this latter petition, Kant notes that two other recent Magisters are also seeking the position — Martin Nikuta [bio] and Kant’s former student C. D. Reusch [bio], and then adds that such a position would “offer several advantages, such as having so many scholarly resources close at hand, as well as the small salary, which I understand to be 60 rthl., and which would help alleviate my very uncertain academic subsistence here [Die erwünschte Gelegenheit, die ich in einem solchen Posten antreffen würde, so viele Hülfsmittel der Wissenschaften bei der Hand zu haben, imbleichen das kleine Gehalt, welches dem Vernehmen nach von 60 rtlr. sein soll, und meiner sher unsicheren akademischen Subsistenz zu einiger Beihülfe dienen würde].

[5] Cabinet order from King Friedrich II [31 March 1770; #53, AA 10:94].  Stuckenberg [1882, 88] claims the salary to be 400 rthl., which Zammito [2002, 91] repeats, but the cabinet order is quite clear on this point.

Königsberg salaries [top] [currency conversion]

Annual Salaries of Full Professors (in Marks)
Theol. Law Med. Phil.
1st 1000 800 800 750
2nd 800 800 800 750
3rd 450 450 800 750

Professors at Königsberg were paid according to the schedule to the right.  Depending on the needs, there were sometimes more, sometimes fewer professors in the upper three faculty, and the salaries of any additional positions would range all the way down to zero.  (For instance, A. W. Hardmann petitioned for a 4th chair in Law at Königsberg, and was offered the position in 1802 at a salary of 68 rthl., or 306 Marks [McClelland 1980, 83]).[1]

There were always eight professorships in the philosophy faculty, and each was paid 750 Marks — without any distinction of seniority — although the mathematics professor received an extra 50 Marks to help with the purchase and maintainance of special equipment [Arnoldt 1746, i.88-89; Goldbeck 1782, 25].  Zammito [2002, 24], working with figures from Turner and Hammerstein, claims that “the philosophy faculty earned salaries drastically inferior to those of the higher faculties,” but one can see from the table that this was not true of Königsberg.[2]

In November 1769, Kant was offered a position at Erlangen [more] with a salary of 500 “Gulden Rheinl.” and five cords of firewood.[3]  In 1770, E. J. Danovius wrote to Kant regarding his possible interest in a new philosophy position created at Jena. [more]  This came with a salary of 200 rthl., but Danovius noted that Kant could easily make an additional 150 rthl. per year from his private lectures.  In 1778, Minister von Zedlitz urged Kant to accept a position at Halle [more] with a salary of 600 rthl., which he later raised to 800 rthl. in his attempt to lure Kant away from Könïgsberg.

[1] The total budget available to the university was 3329 rthl., 70 gr.  This paid the professorial salaries, subsidized meals in the cafeteria, and helped pay salaries to the few non-academic employees [Goldbeck 1782, 26].

[2] Apparently in Halle, the theology professors were paid 500 florins [= 750 marks, the same as philosophy faculty at Königsberg], but the philosophy faculty there received only 100 to 150 florins [= 150-225 marks].

[3] If a “Gulden Rheinl.” is the same as a the Gulden and Florin mentioned elsewhere, then the base salary was identical to that for a philosophy professor at Königsberg, although in Königsberg one received sixteen cords of firewood rather than five (perhaps an indication more of the difference in severity of winters than of the generosity of the crown).

Kant’s salary [top] [currency conversion]

Kant’s Growing Salary
Date Amount Explanation
1770 166 rthl., 60 gl. Pr. Base pay for a full professor of philosophy
  + benefits (firewood, grain, etc.)
  = 236 rthl., 76 gr., 12 pf. (for the years 1770-79)
1780 + 27 rth., 75 gr. 10 pf. Payment for serving in Academic Senate
  = 264 rth., 62 gr. 4 pf. (1780-85)
1786 + 100 rth. Senior member of faculty
  = 364 rth., 62 gr. 4 pf. (1786-89)
1789 + 220 rth. Special order of the King
  = 584 rth., 62 gr. 4 pf. (1790-1801?)

Warda [1901] reports that Kant’s salary was “166 rthl. 60 gl. Pr.”.  Using the conversion table, one sees that this is equivalent to exactly 750 Marks (likewise with the “500 Prussian Gulden” that is occasionally mentioned).  Zweig [1999, 103] interprets the “gl. Pr.” to mean “Prussian goldpieces,” although this is rather more likely to be understood as Prussian Gröschen.

Warda also calculated the various benefits included with Kant’s base salary, which brought the total value to 236 rthl., 76 gr., 12 pf. (making the benefits worth roughly 30% of the total).  Upon entering the academic senate in 1780, Kant received the additional annual salary of 27 rthl., 75 gr. 10 pf.,[1] and upon becoming the senior member of the faculty he received an additional 100 rthl. per year (for an annual salary of 364 rthl., 62 gr., 4 pf.).  Kant served twice as rector, and the holder of this office received various additional benefits totaling about 100 rthl., as well as one-half of all the matriculation fees that they brought in during the semester[2] and money for giving their imprimatur to any printed matter that passed the censorship of the academic senate [Goldbeck 1782, 49].  Kant was given a raise of 220 rthl. in 1789 by special order of the Berlin government,[3], and by the end of his career his salary (including all the benefits) was 749 rthl., 23 gr., 9 pf.  He may have forfeited some of this salary once he gave up his professorship in 1801; see the discussion of his retirement. In 1804, at his death, his estate was worth 21,359 rthl., 33 fl., 12 6/11 pf.[4]  To his annual income would need to be added the student honoraria from his private lectures and privatissima,[5] and the royalties from his publications.[6]

It’s often hard to know what to make of these figures, although one can at least say that, by the end of his career, Kant was the best paid professor of philosophy at the university. 

A common method for assigning values to these figures is to consider what a Reichsthaler would purchase back in Kant’s day (on this see also the more detailed discussion on student expenses).  A government regulation of 1735, for instance, claimed that a student should be able to subsist on 40 rthl. per year (or about one-sixth of Kant’s starting salary as a professor, once benefits are figured in).  Ludwig von Baczko [bio] paid 60 rthl. per year for his room, board, and heating while he was a student in the early 1770s.  A coat and vest (in Kant’s student days — so, the 1740s) cost 8 Gulden 22 1/2 Gröschen (= 2 rthl. 82 gr. 9 pf.)[Vorländer 1924, i.46].  Johann Gottfried von Herder [bio] showed up in Königsberg in the summer of 1762 with only 3 rthl. 8 gr. in his pocket, two rthl. of which paid his matriculation fee; while studying he found a job teaching at the Collegium Fridericianum, where he received free room and board and 16 rthl. per year (eventually raised to 50 rthl. per year).  A stipend that he had applied for and received (from the Dohna family) paid out 50 Gulden (= 16 rthl. 60 gr.) per semester [Dobbek 1961, 83-85].  It cost a student 50 rthl. just to graduate from the Albertina, and when they did graduate, that money was divided nine ways: 2 rthl. to the government minister, and 6 rthl. to each of the eight philosophy professors.

Kant bought his first (and only) house at the end of 1783 for 5500 gulden (= 1833 rthl. 30 gr.).  His annual salary (without benefits included) was 194 rthl. 45 gr. 10 pf, so the purchase price of the house was 9.4 years of his base salary (although of course he was also drawing income from student honoraria and royalties).  In any event, Kant had enough money saved that he was able to pay off the mortgage by July 1784.

[1] Heilsberg, in a questionnaire sent him by Wald, wrote that “in the court rescript of August 11, 1780, concerning Christiani’s vacant position, it reads: ‘Wir wollen dem jede Verbesserung so sehr verdienenden Prof. Log. & Met. Kant die vacant gewordene Stelle im academisch. Senat mit den dabey aufkommenden Emolumenten a. 27 Thlr. 75 gr. 10 pf. hiemit conferiren und darin bestätigen.’” [qtd. in Reicke 1860, 52].

[2] The matriculation fee in Königsberg was 2 rthl. for normal citizens, and 4 rthl. for children of nobility.  The other half of this fee (which amounted to about 150-180 rthl. per year) entered the university treasury, and was used primarily for maintenance of the buildings [Goldbeck 1782, 49].

[3] Flittner [1824] claims this was tied to J. G. K. C. Kiesewetter’s [bio] visit to Königsberg to study with Kant (arriving 10 Nov 1788); Kiesewetter was a favorite of the court.

[4] This figure comes from Warda [1901, 424].  The early biographer Wasianski offered an estimate of 14, 310 rthl., not including the house and furniture [1804, 83-84; 1912, 248].  Stuckenberg [1882, 447] lists 21,539 rthl., which would seem to be a miscopy of Warda, except that he was writing before Warda.  Warda’s calculations were improvements on Fromm [1894, 62-64].

[5] R. B. Jachmann [1804, 185-87; 1912, 198-99] discusses Kant’s income briefly, and from his brother (who spent more time caring for Kant’s finances) reports that Kant was likely making more from the honoraria of his private lectures than he was from his salary, at least in his later years; also that he was drawing 6% interest on money invested with Green and Motherby.

[c] Vorländer [1924, ii.81-83] discusses Kant's honoraria from publications, noting that Kant received 4 rthl. per sheet for the Critique of Pure Reason (or 220 rthl. altogether).  His highest royalty was for his little Perpetual Peace, and for which he received 10 rthl./sheet.

Benefits [top] [currency conversion]

Warda calculated the monetary value of Kant's starting “benefits” at 70 rth., 76 gr., 12 pf.  But what form did these benefits take?  Firewood and grain were likely the most significant.  The wood was delivered from the royal forest at the rate of five Achtel per year to each of the first two professors of theology and law, the first three professors of medicine, and all eight professors of philosophy.  An Achtel equals 12 cubic meters or 3 1/3 Klaster, and a Klaster is nearly equal to a “cord,” the standard unit for firewood in the US.  So each professor received over 16 cords of firewood each winter.

Each member of the Academic Senate (i.e., the top two professors in each of the higher faculties, plus the four most senior professors in the philosophy faculty) received one Last and twenty Scheffel of rye, while the third professor of Medicine and the four younger professors of Philosophy received 44 Scheffel of rye [Goldbeck 1782, 51-52].  According to Engel [1965, 8-9], a Last is equivalent to 48 Scheffeln, and one Scheffel is equivalent to about 40 kg of rye or 36 kg of barley.  Schubert also claimed that the grain included barley and peas along with rye, and that they came in the following ratio: 10/13 rye, 2/13 barley, and 1/13 peas [1859, 69].

Perhaps of more significance for Kant scholars, each senator was given free use of an amanuensis [glossary], insofar as they were given rights to one place at the university cafeteria for the price of an alumnus (namely, 2 groschen per week).

All full professors also received an annual Accisevergütung (which appears to be a rebate on taxes for imported goods) of 80 Gulden, and they were allowed to brew one tax-free Bräusel of beer per year [Arnoldt 1746, i.114].  To cap it all off, full professors were given a free burial, as were their widows and any unmarried children [Goldbeck, 1782, 40-42].

Extra income [top] [currency conversion]

Side teaching positions. Many professors were forced to take on outside employment to support themselves, especially at some of the more underfunded schools which often would simply fail to pay the salaries.  It was fairly typical for professors of medicine to carry-on a private practice on the side, and for professors of law to do likewise.  Professors of theology often held pastoral positions at a local congregation.  Goldbeck discusses the advantages for professors to hold second jobs as rectors or teachers at local Latin schools [1782, 178-79].  Kant noted in a letter to Jakob Sigismund Beck [bio], a former student of his considering a teaching position at Halle, that “since the subsistence from lecturing is always very deficient, you should at the same time look for other teaching positions in your area at a high school, so as to be better able to provide for your needs” [9 May 1791; AA 11:256, #469].  Writing books and articles also generated some income.

University Offices. At Königsberg there were also additional paying positions within the university, such as those of head librarian and assistant librarian in the university library.  While teaching as a lecturer, Kant applied for (Nov. 1765) and received (Feb. 1766) the position of assistant librarian, which he kept until May 1772.  Until he received his appointment as full professor in 1770, this was his only steady income.  The hours at the library were not demanding, as it was open only two days a week (Wednesday and Saturday), and then only in the afternoon from 1 until 4.  Apparently it did not open at all in the Winter because the two rooms where it was located could not be heated.  For this Kant was paid 62 Thaler per year, plus emolumente (e.g., firewood) [Gause 1974, 22].[1]

Faculty also received various incidental incomes when serving as rector or as dean of one of the faculties.  As noted above, the rector received about 100 rthl. in various fees, as well as one-half of all matriculation fees during their semester.  Scholarships generally required the regular testing of the recipients, and the examiners would be compensated for this; for instance, the Gröben scholarship required testing every six months, which involved the rector and the deans of the philosophy and law faculties.  For this the rector received 20 Gulden and each dean 15 Gulden (per exam).

We find that Professor Reusch [bio] was paid 88 rthl., 40 gr. and given free lodging to serve as the inspector of the Alumnat [glossary] and Collegium Albertinum in 1780.  W. B. Jester [bio], a professor of law and chancellor of the university, was paid 58 rthl., 60 gr. as a stipendium curator [Euler 1994].  G. D. Kypke [bio], professor of oriental languages, was paid 100 fl. (= 33 rthl., 30 gr.) to serve as inspector of the local synagogue, which involved attending all the services [Wendland 1910, 29].[2]  Kypke was also known for his garden, out of which he sold carrots and onions — and yet this frugal, bachelor professor was able to endow a dormitory for poor students with an estate worth 50,000 rthl. (the Kypkeanum).

Honoraria. Publishing was another source of additional income.[3] [...]

Taking in Students. Gause notes that “many professors supplemented their income by taking in foreign students.  In 1739 not fewer than fifteen young nobility were living with professor Coelestin Kowalewski [bio], among whom were Friedrich Freiherr von der Trenck (1726-1794), who later became famous through his adventurous life” [Gause 1996, ii.244n]. As mentioned above, Kant apparently took in a few students in his early years as a Privatdocent; since he was renting rooms himself from Prof. Kypke, Kant was presumably serving as something like a Hofmeister for them, offering them help with their studies and supervising their living arrangements — see Rink [1805, 28] [text]). Several sources also claim that Kant, in those early years, was giving private lessons to one or more nephews of Gräfin Kayserling [bio] — and possibly also to her two sons — at their Capustigall residence south of Königsberg [more].

Finally, we know that Kant was also investing his money in the firm of Green & Motherby, and that these investments grew nicely over time.

[1] Elsewhere Gause suggests that it normally was open in the winter, since he noted that one winter it was kept closed because the head librarian didn’t like to work in the cold.  Kuehn [2001, 159] describes Kant working in the winter “with stiff hands and frozen ink in dark rooms, which did not allow reading or writing at all.”

[2] Dietsch claims that the honorarium paid out was 100 rthl./year [1994, 117].

[3] McClelland [1980, 86] suggests that writing journal articles was a significant supplemental source of income for junior faculty.

Copyright ©2006 Steve Naragon (Manchester University)
Last modified: 9 Jan 2016
Please send comments and questions to: ssnaragon@manchester.edu