[Index of Biographies]

Johann Christoph Bohl (1703-1785)

[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).]

Johann Christoph Bohl (also: Bohlius, Bohle) was born (16 November 1703) and died (29 December 1785) in Königsberg. He was a skilled anatomist and taught medicine at the university at Königsberg for four decades – from Kant’s first years as a student through much of Kant’s own tenure as the professor of logic and metaphysics.  Kant dedicated his first book (1747) [writings] to Bohl.

Bohl matriculated at the university in Königsberg on 25 September 1719, and while a student served as a respondent to a disputation supporting pre-established harmony by the Wolffian lecturer K. G. Marquardt [bio] (22 April 1722) and to a disputation on natural theology by Jakob Meckelburg [bio] (17 March 1723). He studied in Leipzig, and then in Leyden under Boerhaave, receiving a doctorate of medicine on 26 July 1726, with a dissertation on De morsu. He then spent four years in Amsterdam working under the Dutch anatomist and botanist Frederick Ruysch (1638-1731), best known for his embalming technique and his cabinet of preserved human specimens; Ruysch was also a close friend to the Wolffian M. E. Boretius [bio] (1694-1738), Bohl’s future colleague at Königsberg. Bohl was offered a medical professorship at Amsterdam but declined as it would have required him changing his religious confession from Lutheran to Reformed. He returned to Königsberg on 15 August 1730 and eleven years later was appointed the 2nd full professor of medicine as well as the royal personal physician (Leibarzt). The records are silent on the intervening years – presumably he was lecturing in medicine as a Privatdozent and maintaining a medical practice. Once he appears in the records as a professor, we find him lecturing from textbooks by Ruysch and Boerhaave. He was appointed the provincial physician of Samland in 1754, and in 1766 he became the senior professor.

Bohl’s inaugural address was a natural history of lactation (1741) and he also translated two anatomical tracts by Frederik Ruysch from Dutch into Latin: on the uterus (1726) and on the brain (1727). Börner claims that Bohl was one of the greatest anatomists of his day. Immanuel Kant dedicated his first book, the 1747 essay on Living Forces [writings], to Bohl.  There is some suggestion that Bohl, along with the Pietist theologian F. A. Schultz [bio], had supported Kant financially during his years at the Collegium Fridericianum, and that Kant had at one time intended to study medicine [more].


Dem Hoch-Ehrwürdigen Hoch-Achtbaren und Hoch-Gelehrten Herrn Johann Jacob Quandten (Königsberg, 1721).

Lemma anatomico-physiologicum inaugurale. De morsu ... (Lugduni Batavorum: Apud Conradum Wishoff, 1726).

(with Frederik Ruysch), Tractatio anatomica, de musculo, in fundo uteri observato, antehac a nemine detecto: cui, accedit depulsionis fecundinarum, parturientium feminarum, instructio (Amsterdam: Jansson-Waesberge, 1726).

(with Frederik Ruysch), Responsio, ad dissertationem epistolicam ... Jo. Christoph. Bohlii ... quam de usu novarum cavae propaginum in systemate chylopoeo, nec non de cortice cerebri, conscripsit ... (Amsterdam: Jansson-Waesberge, 1727).

Medicamentis Lithontripticis anglicanis (Königsberg, 1741).

Historia naturalis viae lactere corporis humani (Königsberg, 1741).

Responsio, ad Dissertationem epistolicam (Amsterdam: Jansson-Waesberge, 1744).

De insensibilitate tendinum (Königsberg, 1764).

Von der nöthigen Vorsichtigkeit bey denen in lebendigen Geschöpfen anzustellenden Erfahrungen von der Unempfindlichkeit der Sehnen (Königsberg, 1767).

Further Reading

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Ausführliche und mit Urkunden versehene Historie der Königsbergischen Universität, 2 vols. (Königsberg, 1746), vol. 2, p. 313.

—, Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1756), p. 57.

—, Fortgesetzte Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1769), p. 40.

Börner, Friedrich, Nachrichten von den vornehmsten Lebensumstaenden und Schriften jetztlebender beruehmter Aerzte und Naturforscher in und um Deutschland, 3 vols. (Wolfenbüttel: Meissner, 1749-53), vol. 3, pp. 212-13.

Goldbeck, Johann Friedrich, Litterarische Nachrichten von Preußen, 2 vols. (Berlin, Leipzig, Dessau: 1781-83), vol. 1, pp. 13-14, 269; vol. 2, p. 6.

—, Nachrichten von der Königlichen Universität zu Königsberg in Preußen, und den daselbst befindlichen Lehr- Schul- und Erzeihungsanstalten (Dessau, 1782), p. 77.

Jöcher/Adelung (1784), vol. 1, col. 1987.

Kuhrke, Walter, Kant und seine Umgebung (Königsberg: Gräfe und Unzer, 1924), p. 14.

Metzger, Johann Daniel, Ueber die Universität zu Königsberg.  Ein Nachtrag zu Arnoldt und Goldbeck (Königsberg, 1804), p. 39-40.

Meusel (1802), vol. 1, pp. 506-7.

Pisanski, Georg Christoph, Entwurf einer preussischen Literargeschichte in vier Bucher, ed. by Rudolf Philippi (Königsberg, 1886), pp. 615, 616-17, 620.  Orig. publ.: Königsberg, 1790.

Reicke, Rudolf, Kantiana.  Beiträge zu Immanuel Kants Leben und Schriften (Königsberg: Th. Theile, 1860), pp. 49-50.

[Index of Biographies]