Lorenz Oken



Natural scientist, natural philosopher, doctor


Born: 01.08.1779 in Bohlsbach near Offenburg

Died: 11.08.1851 in Zürich


Doctorate: 1804 in Freiburg, Bavaria (medicine)

University lecturer: 1807 - 1819 Jena, 1821/22 Basel, 1827 -1832 Munich, 1833 -1851 Zürich


Born Okenfuß, the natural scientist changed his name to Oken "to avoid ridicule". The son of a farmer, Oken had studied medicine in Freiburg before transferring to Göttingen, where he qualified to lecture in 1805. He was summoned to Jena to take up the extraordinary professorship for medicine in 1807. He had, however, already discovered his special liking for philosophy and the sciences, and published a whole series of natural-philosophical and natural-historical works over the following years. In 1816 he was awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Gießen. In the same year, he first published the periodical "Isis", which continued publication until 1848 and became the cause of much controversy. Oken wanted to establish "Isis" as a forum for all academic subjects (except theology and jurisprudence), and publicised his political views there. Calls for a ban on the publication were heard from several quarters, among others from Goethe who had a personal enmity with Oken. After Oken and two other professors from Jena had taken part in the Wartburgfest and reported the event in "Isis", Oken was forced to resign and the journal was banned in Jena. After a short stay in Basel in the winter term of 1821/22, Oken lived privately in Munich and continued to publish his magazine. In 1827, he was made a full professor of physiology at the University of Munich, but continued to involve himself in numerous disputes there and was forced to step down in 1832. The following year, he was offered a full professorship for natural history in Zürich which he held until his death. Oken's main work is considered to be the 13-volume "Naturgeschichte für alle Stände" (natural history for all social ranks), first published between 1833 and 1841.

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Last update:  2003-07-25 (me)