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Thomas Burckhard (1686-1744)

[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).]

Thomas Burckhard (also: Burchard, Burchardt) was an Aristotelian professor of poetry at the university at Königsberg, where he taught for about thirty years.  Born in Danzig in 1686, he matriculated at the university at Königsberg on 6 February 1702, along with his brother Christian Friedrich [bio].  Both eventually left for Wittenberg where they received magister degrees on 31 March 1708.  Thomas returned to the university at Königsberg in 1712 and was lecturing at least by 1714, the year in which he gave his pro receptione disputation that accorded him the right to teach.  He was promoted to associate professor of poetry the following year.  His last years would have coincided with Kant’s tenure as a student at the university.  He died at the age of fifty-nine on 24 January 1744.

Burckhard belonged to a small group of rear-guard Aristotelians struggling against the new Pietists and Wolffians taking hold in Königsberg.  Writing a generation later, the theologian G. C. Pisanski [bio] noted that Burckhard made “every effort to further Aristotelianism by belittling the Wolffian philosophy, as in his essays in the Königsbergische Wöchentliche Nachrichten, where he tries to show it to have many false and improper definitions.”  His lectures were apparently quite popular among the students, but a Pietist colleague in theology, Georg Friedrich Rogall [bio], bitterly complained in a letter of 1724 that a “whoring spirit has overtaken so many here, including professors, that they joke about it and weave it into their lectures.  The worst of these is associate professor Burchardt, who is causing great harm to our academy and for which reason he also has the greatest number of students.  To my consternation he has enticed even some of my students, leading them horribly astray.  Although Burchardt has attended neither church nor communion for two years now, Magister Sahm [bio] makes no complaints about this, although he is his confessor-father” (Wotschke, 27).


De imperatoribus occidentalibus qui imperio se abdicarunt (Königsberg, 1714).

De nobilibus Germaniae poetis (Königsberg, 1715).

Further Reading

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Ausführliche und mit Urkunden versehene Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1746), vol. 2, p. 419.

Jöcher (Leipzig, 1750), vol. 1, col. 1490.

Pisanski, Georg Christoph, Entwurf einer preussischen Literargeschichte in vier Buchern: mit einer Notiz uber den Autor und sein Buch, ed. by Rudolf Philippi (Königsberg, 1886), pp. 523, 595, 651, 656.  Orig. publ.: Königsberg, 1790.

Wotschke, Theodor, Georg Friedrich Rogalls Lebensarbeit nach seinen Briefen (Königsberg, 1928), pp. 15, 27.

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