[Index of Biographies]

Heinrich von Sanden (1672-1728)

[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).]

Heinrich von Sanden was born 28 July 1672 in Königsberg, where he also died at the age of 56 on 10 August 1728. He was an important Königsberg physician and professor of medicine, as well as a professor of physics and one of the first to teach experimental physics in Prussia. He was also one of the first Cartesians to teach at Königsberg, where he hoped to duplicate in medicine the advantages that Cartesianism had experienced in physics over its Aristotelian counterpart.

Sanden was one of three sons of Bernhard von Sanden [bio] and Elisabeth Bock; the father was a professor of theology at Königsberg and an important churchman in Prussia who, since 1690, supervised all churches in Prussia and was named Bishop in 1701. After being tutored at home, Heinrich attended the Altstadt gymnasium before matriculating at the university in Königsberg in 1689 (April 15), where he studied history and rhetoric with Michael Schreiber [bio], philosophy with Blöch, and mathematics with Christian Sahme [bio]. In medicine he studied under the Aristotelians Georg Wosegin (1624-1705), Friedrich Lepner (died 1701), Johann Heinrich Starke (1651-1707), Philipp Jakob Hartmann (1648-1707), and Gottfried Sand (1647-1710), and the Cartesians Adam Harweck (1661-1703) and Johann Gottsched [bio], participating in several of Gottsched’s disputations at the university.

In May 1695 he began a year-long academic tour of Europe, traveling first to Copenhagen to visit the Danish anatomist Caspar Bartholinum, then through northern Germany to Leiden where he studied with Carl Drelincourt, Burcher de Volder, Govard Bidloo, and Holtone. He returned to Königsberg on 17 June 1696 and received a doctorate in medicine the next month (July 10), the same day that his two brothers, Bernard Jr. [bio] and Johann Friedrich [bio], received doctorates in theology and law, respectively.

Sanden opened a medical practice and was given an associate professorship of medicine (1697) at the university in Königsberg, but in 1704 gave up this position to accept a full professorship of physics (after receiving his magister degree on September 18th, without which he could not have lectured in the philosophy faculty), and in this capacity he was among the first in Prussia to offer experimental physics, holding disputations that year on the elasticity of bodies and on the history of the air pump (his inaugural address as physics professor). His Experimental Syllogisms (1712) demonstrated forty-four principles, for the most part unknown in his day, that he had gathered from his experiments. He discussed the origin and attractive powers of amber (1714); he conducted barometic experiments with the Wolffian professor of mathematics Georg Heinrich Rast [bio], arguing in favor of Leibniz’s explanation for the falling of mercury before a storm. Sanden was succeeded in his physics chair by Johann Gottfried Teske [bio], from whom Kant eventually studied physics.

In 1705 Sanden married Johanna Feyerabend, a daughter of the mayor of Kneiphof (one of the three cities that would consolidate in 1724 to form Königsberg), and from this marriage came a daughter and two sons: Christian Bernhard [bio] and Johann Heinrich [bio], both later serving as professors of medicine at Königsberg. Heinrich was invited into the Berlin Academy of Sciences in 1713, and in October 1714 he rejoined the medical faculty as an adjunct professor (while retaining his physics professorship) and became the municipal physician for Kneiphof.

Sanden also developed a large collection of natural objects, notable among which were his anatomic preparations and skeletons, instruments for his physics lab, fossils, and a collection of colored marble, all purchased by Adolf Saturgus (1685-1739), Königsberg’s wealthiest merchant at the time, who added them to his own natural history cabinet. A half century later the polymath Friedrich Samuel Bock [bio] would oversee Saturgus’s cabinet, as Kant might have as well during his tenure as assistant librarian at the Royal Library — Johann Bernoulli (1744-1807) mentions viewing this collection in the company of both Bock and Kant during his visit to Königsberg in 1779.


De ptyalismo (Königsberg, 1696).

De molis (Königsberg, 1697).

De corporibus elasticis (Königsberg, 1704).

De antliis pneumaticis (Königsberg , 1704).

De frigore anni 1709 (Königsberg, 1712).

Sylloge experimentorum, quibus demonstrationes physicae illustrantur (Königsberg, 1712).

De succino, electricorum principe (Königsberg, 1714).

De scripturis et picturis fenestrarum naturalibus (Königsberg, 1715).

Observatio de prolapsu uteri inversi ab excrescentia carneo-fungosa, in fundo ejus interno ex potu infusi crepitus lupi enata (Königsberg, 1722).

Further Reading

ADB, vol. 30, p. 344.

APB, vol. 2, p. 588 (Fritz Gause).

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Ausführliche und mit Urkunden versehene Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1746), vol. 2, pp. 323-4, 331, 395.

Fortgesetzte Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1769), p. 18.

Buck, Friedrich Johann, Lebens-Beschreibungen derer verstorbenen Preußischen Mathematiker überhaupt (Königsberg and Leipzig, 1764), pp. 140-44.

DBE, vol. 8, p. 511.

Jöcher (Leipzig, 1751), vol. 4, cols. 117-18.

Pisanski, Georg Christoph, Entwurf einer preussischen Literargeschichte in vier Bucher, ed. by Rudolf Philippi (Königsberg, 1886), pp. 155, 369, 370-71, 497, 542, 545, 552-4, 559, 623. Orig. publ.: Königsberg, 1790.

[Index of Biographies]