[Index of Biographies]
Michael Alberti (1682-1757)
[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).]
Michael Alberti was born in Nuremberg (German: Nürnberg) on 13 November 1682, as the son of pastor Paul Martin Alberti (1640-1705). He died in Halle as the senior member of the university faculty on 17 May 1757, after serving as professor of medicine there for more than forty years. Alberti and his Halle colleague, Johann Juncker (1679-1759), were important disciples of the Halle professor Georg Ernst Stahl (1659-1734)[bio], disseminating his vitalist medical model in opposition to the Cartesian iatromechanical model of Hoffmann (Halle) and Boerhaave (Leiden). Alberti wrote prolifically (a dozen books and hundreds of disputation pamphlets) on a wide variety of medical subjects, as well as on medical forensics and jurisprudence.
Alberti enrolled as a theology student in 1698 at Altdorf, the university nearest his hometown, and during these studies began employment as a private tutor (Hofmeister) to a young nobleman, which resulted in a brief stay at the university at Jena. There he became acquainted with several medical professors — Georg Wolfgang Wedel (1645-1721), Johann Adrian Slevogt (1653-1726), and Rudolf Wilhelm Krause (1642-1719) — and changed his studies to medicine, although he remained a deeply pious man and often indicated a regret at leaving theology.
Alberti matriculated at Halle in 1701 and attended Stahl’s lectures, whose animistic model of medicine he found more congenial than the iatromechanism of Friedrich Hoffmann (1660-1742)[bio], Stahl’s longtime colleague and later adversary. Alberti also attended the lectures of the classicist Christoph Cellarius and the philosopher and theologian Johann Franz Buddeus (1667-1729). He defended his doctoral dissertation on the “errors of clinical medicine” in February 1704, and habilitated with a dissertation on “the true pathology of nosebleeds” that August. In the following year (1705) he married Anna Magdalena Wendt, the daughter of Georg Wendt of Halle, and together had five children (one of whom, Heinrich Christian Alberti, taught as an associate professor of medicine alongside his father at Halle).
Alberti returned to Nuremberg in 1707 to care for his sick father, and practiced medicine there for the next four years before returning to Halle in 1708 as a Privatdozent, where he lectured in philosophy as well as medicine. With Stahl’s recommendation he was promoted in 1710 to associate professor of medicine. In 1713 he was offered and declined a full professorship at Altdorf, and in 1716 he assumed the 2nd full professorship vacated by Stahl, who had been called to Berlin as personal physician to Friedrich Wilhelm I. Shortly after this he was also made an associate professor of physics, and in 1717 was appointed court advisor and raised to full professor of physics (alongside his professorship of medicine), and in 1719 he became a consistory advisor. Alberti was made a member of the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina in 1713, and a corresponding member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences in June 1726. In 1729 he began directing the university botanical garden for growing pharmaceuticals (although Alberti’s colleague Christian Wolff, in a letter of 30 August 1743, complained he had turned the garden into his own vegetable patch).
Alberti was a prolific author, presenting or presiding over hundreds of formal academic dissertations (with an average length of about forty pages each) and publishing about a dozen full-length treatises, writing primarily on medical topics (with over thirty dissertations on hemorrhoids alone, including the inaugural dissertation for his professorship — this was a topic closely studied by Stahl and Hoffmann as well), but also on medical forensics and jurisprudence (1725-47, 1730), with many essays ranging over ethical, religious, psychological, and metaphysical domains, such as his dissertations on psychosomatic illness (1718, 1721, 1732, 1745, 1751, 1755), euthanasia (1735), and the differences in the powers of the soul according to differences among humans (1740).
De erroribus medicinae practicae (Halle, 1704).
Veram pathologiam haemorrhagiarum narium sistens (Halle, 1704).
Introductio in universam medicinam, 3 vols. (Halle, 1718, 1719, 1721).
Dissertationes academicae de haemorrhoidibus (Halle, 1718).
Medicinische und Philosophische Schrifften (Halle, 1721).
Systema jurisprudentiae medicae, 6 vols. (Halle, 1725, 1729, 1733, 1737, 1740, 1747).
Specimen medicinae theologicae (Halle, 1726).
Tentamen lexici realis, 2 parts (Halle, 1727, 1730).
Commentatio in constitutionem criminalem Carolinam medica (Halle, 1739).
Philosophische Gedanken von den Unterschiede der Kräfte der Seelen nach dem Unterschieden der Menschen (Halle, 1740).
Other Relevant Works
De therapia morborum morali (Halle, 1714).
De cura per expectationem (Halle, 1718).
De therapie imaginaria, von Menschen die aus Einbildung Gesund werden (Halle, 1721).
De valetudinarii imaginariis, von Menschen die aus Einbildung kranck werden (Halle, 1721).
De torturae subjectis aptis et ineptis (Halle, 1730).
De abortus violenti modis et signis (Halle, 1730).
Sistens casum peculiarem de morbo motuum habituali ex imaginatione (Halle, 1732).
De euthanasia medica, vom leichten Todt (Halle, 1735).
De medici officio circa animam in causa sanitatis, ob die Medicin in Curen mit der Seele etwas zu schaffen habe? (Halle, 1745).
Sistens noli me tangere medicum sive morbos, quos tangere non licet (Halle, 1751).
De morbis imaginariis hypochondriacorum (Halle, 1755).
ADB, vol. 1, pp. 214-15 (August Hirsch).
Börner, Friedrich, Nachrichten von den vornehmsten Lebensumstaenden und Schriften jetztlebender beruehmter Aerzte und Naturforscher in und um Deutschland, 4 vols. (Wolfenbuettel, 1749), vol. 1, pp. 401-41; (1752), vol. 2, pp. 441-2, 766; (1753), vol. 3, pp. 395, 599.
Bornhak, Conrad, Geschichte der preussischen Universitätsverwaltung bis 1810 (Berlin, 1900), pp. 63, 137.
Jöcher/Adelung (Leipzig, 1784), vol. 1, pp. 428-39.
Kaiser, Wolfram, “Michael Alberti (1682 bis 1757) und sein Systema Jurisprudentiae Medicae von 1725,” in Zahn-, Mund- und Kieferheilkunde, vol. 66 (1978), pp. 55-67.
Meusel (Leipzig, 1802), vol. 1, pp. 43-56.