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Johann Gottfried Teske (1704-1772)

[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 Gottfried Teske (also: Taeschke, Teschke) was born (3 May 1704) and died (25 May 1772) in Königsberg. He was professor of physics at the university during Kant's student years and the first to lecture on electricity in the experimental physics course.

Teske began his university studies on 30 September 1719 in Königsberg, living in the home of arch-Pietist Heinrich Lysius (1670-1730). He transferred to Halle for his magister degree (27 May 1726) and then returned to Königsberg (Matrikel: 10 Aug 1726) to begin lecturing in philosophy with the winter semester of 1726/27. He was promoted to an associate professor of logic and metaphysics in 1728, and the following year assumed the full professorship of physics (replacing von Sanden, who had just died). He also served as the consistory advisor for Samland (beginning in 1733) and was elected an honorary professor of the St. Petersburg Academy in 1760.

Teske taught both theoretical and experimental physics, assembling a noteworthy collection of physical and mathematical instruments. He was the first in Königsberg to work with electricity, and he introduced Kant to this and to physics in general. Kant’s magister dissertation (“On Fire”) was clearly related to Teske’s interests, and one might view Teske as one of Kant’s academic mentors. A friend and biographer of Kant's, L. E. Borowski, claims that Kant revered Teske, although C. J. Kraus — a more reliable source — reports that Kant “had a low opinion” of him [Reicke 1860, 7]. Teske enjoyed the support of influential Pietists like Lysius and G. F. Rogall, and was appointed full professor of physics even though he had been lecturing for only two years, and despite the candidacy of the more experienced and more competent Karl Heinrich Rappolt (1702-1753) — who was, however, a Wolffian. Teske [1728] entered a controversy regarding the principle of sufficient reason, defending the Königsberg mathematician and theologian and Pietist Christoph Langhansen against Daniel Strähler (1692-1750), a professor from Halle; Langhansen opposed the principle of sufficient reason because he saw it as underlying a thorough-going necessity that was, in turn, incompatible with human freedom. Teske died while serving as rector for SS 1772, and already in SS 1771 had been unable to teach his announced courses.

Teske married Christina Charlotte Pudnitz (1714-1788); children included the daughter Margarethe Dorothea Teske (1737-1767), who married Gottfied Hagen


Dissertatio de igne ex chalybis silicisque collisione nascente (Königsberg: Reussner, 1719).

Dissertatio astronomica, de longitudine fixarum mutabili, latitudine earundem immutabili existente, quam, divina annuente gratia (Königsberg: Reussner, 1726).

De intellectu divino (Königsberg, 1728).

Joh. Gotfr. Teskens neue Cur der Zahnschmerzen durch Magnetische Kraft (Königsberg, 1765).

Further Reading

APB, vol. 2, pp. 723-24 (Gerd Brausch).

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Ausführliche und mit Urkunden versehene Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1746), vol. 2, p. 396.

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Fortgesetzte Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1769), p. 47.

Gause, Fritz, Die Geschichte der Stadt Königsberg in Preussen, 2nd enlarged ed., 3 vols. (Köln, 1996), vol. 2, pp. 151.

Kuehn, Manfred, "Kant's Teachers in the Exact Sciences," in Eric Watkins, ed., Kant and the Sciences (Oxford, 2001), pp. 11-30.

Ludovici, Carl Günther, Ausführlicher Entwurf einer vollständigen Historie der Wolffischen Philosophie, 3 vols. (Leipzig: J.G. Löwe, 1735-38), vol. 1, p. 279, vol. 3, p. 275.

Meusel (1815), vol. 15, pp. 28-29.

Pisanski, Georg Christoph, Entwurf einer preussischen Literargeschichte in vier Bucher, ed. by Rudolf Philippi (Königsberg, 1886), pp. 529, 535, 542, 546.

Reicke, Rudolf, Kantiana. Beiträge zu Immanuel Kants Leben und Schriften (Königsberg: Th. Theile, 1860), p. 7.

Wotschke, Theodor, Georg Friedrich Rogalls Lebensarbeit nach seinen Briefen (Königsberg, 1928), pp. 71, 120, 133.

[Index of Biographies]