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Kant’s Life

Kant’s Life: Friends and Acquaintances

“If Kant ever betrayed a deep knowledge of human nature,
it was especially in his friendships.”

— Jachmann [1804, 91-92]

[This page is entirely a work-in-progress]

As with most people, Kant’s circle of friends changed over the years. The following friends are grouped by occupation or social world, some appearing on more than one list. Those with an asterisk (*) studied under Kant at the university; those with a (TF) were a regular Tischfreund or dinner guest of Kant’s,⁠ Several lists are provided in the early accounts, the best known being Jachmann [1804, 146-47]. Kant did not install a cook and kitchen until Easter 1787 (our first report of Kant dining at his house) and so any of his friends who died before then would necessarily be excluded from this group of “dinner friends.” and those with an asterisk (TF*) are those who attended the first “Freunde Kant Gesellschaft” on 22 April 1805.

From childhood

David Ruhnken (1723-1798) [bio]

Johannes Cunde (1724 or 1725-1759)


Cunde was born in in Freitz, by Schlawe, and attended the school there (with David Ruhnken) for a few years. They both ended up at the Collegium Fridericianum in Königsberg, Cunde arrived on Michaelis 1735 (as an “Under Second”) – nine semesters after Kant and Ruhnken – and matriculated at the university at Easter 1741 [Gotthold 1853].

Theodor Michael Freytag (1725-1790)[uni]


Theodor Michael Freytag taught at the Kneiphof school, then pastor in Neuhausen (1767).

Christoph Friedrich Heilsberg (1726-1807)[govt] [bio]


Johann Gerhard Trummer (1729-1793)[physician] [bio]


Johann Heinrich Wlömer (1728-1797)[govt] [bio]


Despite enrolling in the theology faculty, Wlömer eventually switched to law, served as a Privy Finance Councilor in Berlin, and belonged to the Enlightenment-promoting “Wednesday Society.”

Christoph Bernhard Kallenberg


Gave Kant free lodging after Wlömer left for Berlin.

From the merchant class

Jean Claude Toussaint (1709-1774)

French merchant and father-in-law to Robert Motherby; business partner with Jean Claude Lavel. Mellin [1804, 1: 149, 151] claimed that Toussaint was Kant’s closest friend – his only friend in the sense of a “moral friendship.” This is a remarkable claim with no further support and about which Rink comments:

Herr Toussant, probably Herr Business-Councilor Touissaint, is mentioned (p. 151) as Kant's only friend in the fullest sense of the word, and indeed the deceased appreciated this worthy man, as everyone must appreciate him who knows him, even if only from afar; but he himself would have been surprised to read this passage, and will gladly concede the closer right of Kant’s friendship to Herr Green and his late brother-in-law, Herr Motherby. [Rink 1805, 145-46]

Johann Conrad Jacobi (1717-1774) [bio]

Geheimen Commerzienrat. Married (1752) and divorced (1768) Charlotta Schwinck (below). Uncle to his heir Friedrich Conrad Jacobi (below).

Joseph Green (1727-1786) [bio]

Business partner with Robert Motherby.

Friedrich Franz Saturgus (1728-1810)

Kommerzienrat und Negotianten.

Peter Heinrich Hüge (died 1788)

Kant was said to visit Hüge’s estate at Prilacken, 18 km north-west of Königsberg, near Wiekau (now: Kolossowka, Russia). His park was reminiscent of the Wilhelmshöhe near Kassel [Dohna 1993, 89]. [Reusch 1848b, 365; Vorländer 1924, 1: 123].

Johann Christoph Berens (1729-1792)

Born in Riga to a patrician family, studied law at the university in Königsberg (1748-51), matriculating 10 Aug 1748, which is when we think Kant left Königsberg to work as a Hofmeister, so the two might have become acquainted until after 1754, and in 1759 Johann Georg Hamann has dedicated his Socratische Denkwürdigkeiten (1759) to “den Zween” (i.e., Kant and Berens), whom Hamann compared to Socrates and Alcibiades. Apart from Berens’ work as a merchant, he had strong literary interests, editing the weekly periodical Daphne (1750), with contributions from Hamann.

Robert Motherby (1736-1801) [bio]

Business partner with Joseph Green.

Johann Julius Göschen (1736-1798)

Munz-Meister, later Munz-Direktor.

Wilhelm Ludwig Ruffmann(TF) (1737-1794)

Jean Claude Laval (1737-1793)

French merchant and business partner with Jean Claude Toussaint. [Reusch 1848b, 365; Nekrolog in Preußisches Archiv (February 1993), pp. 194-96.]

Charlotta Jacobi née Schwinck (1739-1795) [bio]

Married (1752) and divorced (1768) Johann Conrad Jacobi. Married (c.1769) Johann Julius Göschen.

George Hay (b. 1738)

Scottish merchant and grandson of the merchant Francis Hay; directed the firm Barckley und Hay with his partner, the Englishman David Barckley (†1809).⁠ This same Barckley was mentioned in Ludwig von Heß’s 15 May 1802 letter to Kant, in which Heß offers Barckley’s assistance, should Kant need someone to dictate a letter in response to Hess [AA 12: 341]. He also appears in a personal note from the Opus postumum materials:
The wine and the smoked meat that Herr von Heß (among which two large bottles) – Herr Barkley sent me the crate. I must thank Herr von Heß and report the misfortune with the fruit and the smoked meat. [AA 21: 113]
Later Heß and Barkley are again mentioned together, along with “my bust in Königsberg” [AA 21: 148].
Barckley had married Elisabeth Henriette Dittrich (1774-1840), and Henriette along with Hay’s daughter, also named ‘Henriette’, maintained one of the leading salons of Königsberg, alongside those of Johanna Motherby and Elisabeth Stägemann [Gause 1996, 2: 303-4].

Friedrich Conrad Jacobi(TF) (1752-1816) [bio]

Nephew to Johann Conrad Jacobi (above) and heir of the business.

Johann Christian Gädeke(TF*) (1765-1853)

Arrived in Königsberg in 1782. Married (1804) Johanna Catharina Elisabeth Jacobi, daughter of Friedrich Conrad Jacobi (above).

From the government (lawyers and civil servants)

Matthias Balthasar Nicolovius (1717-1778)

Hofrat; father of Kant’s later publisher, Friedrich Nicolovius. In discussing the son, Jachmann notes that his “father was a friend of Kant’s,” that Friedrich was “the son of an old friend” [1804, 71-72]

Christoph Friedrich Heilsberg (1726-1807)[childhood] [bio]

Johann Heinrich Wlömer (1728-1797)[childhood]

Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788) [bio]

Reichardt [1812] briefly compares Kant and Hamann in his parallel sketches, and an early unsigned study of this relationship appeared serially in the Preußische Provinzial-Blätter (1853), pp. 164-73, 293-99, 385-96, 410-17.

Johann Julius Göschen (1736-1798)

Johann Georg Scheffner(TF) (1736-1820) [bio]

Theodor Gottlieb Hippel*(TF) (1741-1796) [bio]

Christian Friedrich Jensch*(TF) (1743-1802) [bio]

Stadt-, Kriminalrat.


Johann Brahl(TF*) (1753-1812) [bio]

Lizentrat ⁠ Varying reports of Brahl’s birth-year: Gieseke [1793, 216] claims Brahl was born in Königsberg in 1754; the Kant “Personenindex” gives the life dates as 1752 or 1754; Gause gives 1753 [1996, 2: 233]; Malter gives 1753 [Malter 1990, 253].

Johann Friedrich Vigilantius*(TF*) (1757-1823) [bio]


Johann Gottfried Frey(TF*) (1762-1831) [bio]

Regierungsdirektor, Kriminalrat.

Friedrich August von Stägemann(TF*) (1763-1840) [bio]

Kriminalrat. Moved to Königsberg in 1784.

Samuel Peter Friedrich Buck*(TF*) (1763-1827)⁠ Malter [1990, 559] gives his death year as 1818; I follow Gause [1996, 2: 315]. [bio]

Stadtrat (replacing Jensch in 1802). Matriculated at the university on 18 Sep 1779. Son of Kant’s old rival, Professor F. J. Buck (1722-1786).

Christian Friedrich Reusch*(TF) (1778-1848) [bio]

Son of Kant’s colleague, Prof. C. D Reusch (1735-1806); younger brother to Carl Wilhelm Georg Reusch. Geheimer Oberregierungsrat.

John Motherby(TF*) (1784-1813) [bio]


Carl Friedrich Schreiber(TF*) (†1821)

Regierungsrat.⁠ Rosenkranz [1842, 2: 282-83] describes an endowment funded by Schreiber to honor Kant.
“An endowment funds a student speech in the auditorium of the Albertinum to celebrate his memory each year on the anniversary of his death. Schreiber, the founder, offers a prize for the best speech: German one year and Latin [283] the next. The task is to offer an encomium to Kant by explaining some sentence from his writings. In the course of time these explanations have not infrequently become polemics – under Herbart Kant was an Herbartian and at present he is Hegelian. This is to be expected and entirely in Kant’s spirit. Nothing would be more abhorrent to him than to see his philosophy embalmed alive – to him who continued educating himself from one point of view to the next, and for whom every uncritical rumination was an abomination.”
Schubert [1842, 209] mentions that Schreiber donated 2000 Rthl. to fund this essay contest among the university students to mark the anniversary of Kant’s death.
Schreiber bought Kant’s old hat at the estate auction for 25 Gulden, 3 Groschen [Warda 1901, 424], which eventually found its way into the Prussian Museum in Königsberg.

From the aristocracy/military

Count Heinrich Christian Keyserling (1727-1787)

Countess Caroline Keyserling (1727-1791) [bio]

Karl Friedrich von Meyer* (1708-1775)

Daniel Friedrich von Lossow (1722-1783)

Friedrich Leopold von Schrötter (1743-1815)

Friedrich Karl Ludwig Holstein-Beck* (1757-1816) [bio]

From academia (the university and local gymnasia)

Johann Daniel Funk (1721-1764) [bio]

Full Prof. of Law


Michael Freytag (1725-1790)[childhood]

Taught at the Cathedral school (1747), then pastor at Kirchdorf Neuhaussen (1767) [Vorländer 1924, 1: 88].

Carl Daniel Reusch*(TF) (1735-1806) [bio]

Full Prof. of Physics

Johann Gotthelf Lindner (1729-1776) [bio]

Full Prof. of Poetry (1765). Likely knew Kant from their school days, as he attended the Coll. Fridericianum (1736-44) and the university (1744-48).

Johann Schultz (1739-1805) [bio]

Full Prof. of Mathematics

Karl Gottfried Hagen(TF*) (1749-1829) [bio]

Prof. of Medicine, later also of Physics

Christoph Friedrich Elsner*(TF) (1749-1820)[physician] [bio]

Full Prof. of Medicine

Karl Ludwig Pörschke*(TF*) (1752-1812) [bio]

Assoc. Prof. of Philosophy, later Full Prof. of Poetry, Pedagogy, History, Practical Philosophy.

Christian Jakob Kraus*(TF*) (1753-1807) [bio]

Full Prof. of Practical Philosophy

Johann Gottfried Hasse(TF*) (1759-1806)[clergy] [bio]

Full Prof. of Oriental Languages

Johann Friedrich Gensichen(TF*) (1759-1807) [bio]

Assoc. Prof. of Mathematics

Gottlob Benjamin Jäsche*(TF) (1762-1842) [bio]

Lecturer in Philosophy

Friedrich Ludwig Ehrenboth*(TF) (176?-3 January 1800)


He was one of the students signing the dedicatory poem on the occasion of Kant’s (178) rectorship [AA 12: 406]. Inspector of the Poor Schools. [Zippel 1898, 189-90]

Johann Michael Hamann*(TF*) (1769-1813)

Son of Johann Georg Hamann. Rector of the Altstadt Gymnasium.

Theodor Rink*(TF) (1770-1811)[clergy] [bio]

Assoc. Prof. of Oriental Languages, Full Prof. of Theology

Carl Wilhelm Georg Reusch(TF*) (1776-1813)[physician]

Son of Kant’s colleague, Prof. C. D Reusch (1735-1806); older brother to Christian Friedrich Reusch.

From the physicians

Johann Gerhard Trummer [childhood] [bio]

Marcus Naphtali Herz* (1747-1803) [bio]

Student 1766-70, then moved to Berlin.

Christoph Friedrich Elsner*(TF*) (1749-1820)[uni] [bio]

Johannes Benjamin Jachmann*(TF*) (1765-1832) [bio]

William Motherby*(TF*) (1776-1847) [bio]

Carl Wilhelm Georg Reusch(TF*) (1776-1813)[uni]

Christoph Johann Heinrich Elsner⁠ Kant sends his greetings to Elsner in his letter to Erhard (20 Dec 1799) [AA 12: 297], whom he describes as “a young man of much talent.” (1777-1834) [bio]

Son of Kant’s colleague, C. F. Elsner.

Heinrich Ernst Carl Laubmeyer(TF*)

From the clergy

Ludwig Ernst Borowski (1740-1831) [bio]

Stephan Wannowski(TF) (1749-1812) [bio]

George Michael Sommer(TF*) (1754-1826) [bio] [Reusch 1848b, 365]

Ehregott Andreas Christoph Wasianski(TF*) (1755-1831) [bio]

Johann Gottfried Hasse(TF*) (1759-1806)[uni] [bio]

Reinhold Bernhard Jachmann*(TF) (1767-1843) [bio]

Director, Pedagogy Institute (Jenkau bei Danzig).

Theodor Rink*(TF) (1770-1811)[uni] [bio]

From the Literati and Others

Michael Friedrich Wobser (c.1724-1795)

Head forester at Moditten, where Kant would visit him.

Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788)[govt] [bio]

Johann Georg Scheffner (1736-1820)[govt] [bio]

Johann Jakob Kanter (1738-1786) [bio]

Theodor Gottlieb Hippel* (1741-1796)[govt] [bio]

Friedrich Nicolovius*(TF*) (1768-1836) [bio]

Bookdealer and Kant’s publisher (after 1790).

Freunde Kants Gesellschaft (22 April 1805)

Reusch [1848b, 299] provides a list of everyone who attended the first “Friends of Kant Society” birthday celebration that took place in Kant’s home and was arranged by the physician William Motherby. These were all the people who had been invited to his last birthday party (22 April 1803) described by Wasianski [1804, 142-43]. See also Döhring [1905, 403-32].⁠ This list was given in the course of Döhring’s “Bean Speech” at the 1905 gathering of the “Friends of Kant Society” [1905, 417]: “Von 23 Freunden begründet, zählte die Gemeinschaft im Jahre 1810 24 Mitglieder. Es waren größtenteils bekannte Männer unter denen neben den bereits erwähnten (Jachmann, Wasianski, Nicolovius) noch Scheffner und Kraus genannt sein mögen, sowie der Vater Karls und Aug. Hagen, Medizinalrat Gottfried Hagen, der es aus Verehrung für Kant nicht zuließ, daß seine Büste neben der des großen Weisen aufgestellt wurde, ferner Hamann, Jacobi, Gaedeke und Chr. Fr. Reusch, der uns alle die Veteranen der Kantverehrung in seiner und ihrer Schlichtheit beschrieben hat. Scheffner beantragte die Zahl der Teilnehmer auf 20 zu beschränken und nur an die Stelle eines ‘abgegangenen’ Mitgliedes eine Neuwahl durch Pluralität zu treffen. Dagegen bestimmte ein Beschluß vom Jahre 1828, daß die Normalzahl 30 sein solle, […].”

Attending (25):

“Professoren [Christian Jakob] Kraus, [Karl Ludwig] Pörschke, [Johann Gottfried] Hasse, [Karl Gottfried] Hagen Med. R., [Johann Friedrich] Gensichen, Kriegsrath [Johann Georg] Scheffner, Reg. R. [Johannn Friedrich] Vigilantius, Reg. R. a. D. [Carl Friedrich] Schreiber, Bürgermeister [Samuel Peter Friedrich] Buck, Pfarrer [Ehregott Andreas Christoph] Wasianski, Pfarrer [Georg Michael] Sommer, Dr. med [Johannes Benjamin] Jachmann, Ober-Stadt-Inspector [Johann] Brahl, Buchhändler [Friedrich] Nicolovius, Kaufmann Joh. Reinhold Jacobi I've been unable to identify anyone with this name and so have to assume that it was written in error; the intended reference is surely Friedrich Conrad Jacobi (1752-1816), nephew and heir to Johann Conrad Jacobi (1717-1774) and the business partner and father-in-law to Johann Christian Gädeke (1765-1853), the next name in the list. und [Johann Christian] Gädecke, John Motherby, Criminal-Räthe [Friedrich August von] Stägemann und [Johann Gottfried] Frey, die Doctoren der Medizin William Motherby, Laubmeyer, [Carl Wilhelm Georg] Reusch, [Christoph Johann Heinrich] Elsner,⁠ This is the son of Kant’s university colleague and physician, Christoph Friedrich Elsner Director [Johann Michael] Hamann, Reg. Assessor [Christian Friedrich] Reusch.”

Not-Attending (3):

“Prediger [Stephen] Wannowski, Regierungsrath [???] Schulz, Reg. und Schulrath [Reinhold Bernhard] Jachmann.”

[Kant discussed friendship in his ethics lectures (the last section of Baumgarten’s Philosophical Ethics concerned “duties regarding friends and friendlessness”)[see Moral Herder, 27:50, 54; Moral Collins (27:358, 419-20, 422-30 + the next section on Enmity); Moral Vigilantius (27:675-86 + following section on enmity], and wrote on it in his Metaphysics of Morals.