Geek Of The Week: Jacob Christian Schaeffer

Geek Of The Week: Jacob Christian Schaeffer

Jacob Christian Schäffer, was a German dean, professor, botanist, mycologist, entomologist, ornithologist and inventor. From 1736 to 1738 he studied Theology at the University of Halle before becoming a teacher in Ratisbon. In 1760, the University of Wittenberg gave him the title of Doctor of Philosophy, and the University of Tübingen awarded him in 1763 the title of Doctor of Divinity. In 1741, he became a pastor of a Protestant parish. In 1779, while still a pastor, he also became the dean of the Protestant parish in Ratisbon. In 1759, Schäffer published Erleichterte Artzney-Kräuterwissenschaft, a handbook of botany and the medicinal effects of plants for doctors and pharmacists. From 1762 to 1764, he wrote four richly illustrated volumes on mycology, Natürlich ausgemahlten Abbildungen baierischer und pfälzischer Schwämme, welche um Regensburg wachsen. In 1774, he wrote Elementa Ornithologica, in which he proposed a system of classification of the birds based on the structure of their legs. This work was followed by Museum Ornithologicum in 1789, in which he described the birds in his collection. In 1779, Schäffer published the three-volume work Icones insectorum circa ratisbonam indigenorum coloribus naturam referentibus expressae, which included 280 hand-coloured plates of copper engravings, illustrating approximately 3,000 insects. An introduction to entomology, Elementa entomologica, followed in 1789.

Natural history was not the only field which interested him. He conducted experiments on electricity, colours, and optics. He remains famous for his manufacture of prisms and lenses. He invented an early washing machine, for which he published designs in 1767: Die bequeme und höchstvortheilhafte Waschmaschine. His other inventions included a saw and furnaces. The paper industry also interested him and between 1765 and 1771 the results of his observations and experiments were published as Versuche und Muster, ohne alle Lumpen oder doch mit einem geringen Zusatze derselben, Papier zu machen. It discussed, in particular, the manufacture of paper using various plants such as the poplar, moss and hop, which might not have been used by the paper pulp manufacturers without his experimental work.

About the Author

avatar MIKE: A geek who currently works as a Biologist and has an extensive science background. He is an avid user of HPC systems used for scientific research in the Washington DC area. Mike's working knowledge of using computers to solve problems brings a unique viewpoint to the podcast.