Albrecht von Haller

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Haller, Albrecht von

(äl`brĕcht fən hä`lər), 1708–77, Swiss scientist and writer. He had already won distinction as botanist and poet when he was appointed (1736) professor of anatomy, medicine, and botany at the Univ. of Göttingen. There he carried on the research in experimental physiology for which he is especially famed and on which he based his theory of the irritability (known today as contractility) of muscle tissue, set forth in A Dissertation on the Sensible and Irritable Parts of Animals (1732, tr. 1936). He returned (1753) to his native Bern, where he continued his research and took part in public affairs. Among his voluminous writings are Elementa physiologiae corporis humani (8 vol., 1757–66); noted bibliographies in anatomy, surgery, botany, and medicine; and a volume of poems, Versuch schweizerischer Gedichte (1732).

Haller, Albrecht Von

 

Born Oct. 16, 1708, in Bern; died there Dec. 12, 1777. Swiss naturalist and poet.

Haller studied at the University of Tübingen and later at Leiden. He became a doctor of medicine in 1724, and from 1736 to 1753 he was a professor at the University of Göttingen, where he established the anatomical theater and botanical gardens. In 1751 he founded the Royal Society of Sciences in Göttingen and was elected its president. From 1753 he was again in Bern. Haller proposed his own system of plant classification according to the structure of the fruit and the external appearance of the plants. Studying the embryogeny of the chicken, he tried to substantiate the theory of preformation. In the field of physiology he established experimentally the properties of muscle fibers—their elasticity and their capacity to react by contracting upon stimulation of the corresponding nerves or of the muscles themselves. He made a few additions to W. Harvey’s theory, making the connection of the various links of the circulatory system more precise.

As a poet and representative of the early Enlightenment, Haller played an important role in the history of German-Swiss literature. The poem The Alps (1729, published in 1732) was written in the style of didactic, descriptive landscape poetry. It also expressed Haller’s sympathy for the toiling peasantry. The collection Swiss Poems (1732) is colored by sentimentality. In the novels Usong (1771), Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons (1773), and Fabius and Cato (1774), Haller considered various types of government. The philosophical narrative poem On the Origin of Evil (1734) was translated into Russian in 1786 by N. M. Karamzin.

WORKS

Elementa physiologiae corporis humani, vols. 1-8. Lausanne, 1757-66.
Bibliotheca chirurgica. Basel, 1774-75.
Bibliotheca botanica. Zürich, 1771-72.
Bibliotheca anatomica. Zürich, 1774-77.
Gedichte …. Leipzig, 1923.
Schriften zur Literatur. Berlin, 1959.

REFERENCES

Istoriia nemetskoi literatury, vol. 2. Moscow, 1963. Pages 64-67.
Festschrift zum Andenken an Albert von Haller dargebracht. Bern, 1877. (Contains a complete list of Haller’s works.)
Frey, A. Albrecht von Hallers Staatsromane. Freiburg, 1928. (Dissertation.)
Beer, R. R. Der grosse Haller. Säckingen, 1947.
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