Albrecht von Haller

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Johann Rudolf Huber , Portrait of Albrecht von Haller (1736)

Albrecht Viktor Haller , from 1749 von Haller (also Albert von Haller or Albert de Haller ; born  October 16, 1708 in Bern ; † December 12, 1777 ibid) was a Swiss medic , doctor and natural scientist (especially botanist ), poet and science journalist in the time of the Enlightenment . Haller's botanical author's abbreviation is “ Haller ”, but it is also “ Hall. " in use.

Because of the wide range of his skills, Haller was considered a universal scholar . His achievements in anatomical and bibliographical fields were of lasting importance for medicine. In addition, Haller emerged as a poet and literary critic . He achieved lasting fame in this area above all as the creator of the monumental poetry Die Alpen .



Albrecht von Haller's family had been part of the citizenship of the city of Bern since 1548. His parents were Niklaus Emanuel Haller (1672-1721), who held the office of land clerk under the Bernese bailiff Hieronymus Thormann (1658-1733), and his first wife Anna Maria Engel (1681-1708). She was the daughter of Johann Anton Engel (1658–1711), who was mayor of Unterseen and the uncle of Samuel Engel . This cousin of Haller's mother was a governor, economist and geographer. Albrecht, the third son of his father, received lessons from a tutor, the Neuchâtel theologian Abraham Baillod (1675–1751), who had resigned from the parish office in 1707/1708 because of his rejection of the Eucharist . Baillod's pietistic attitude is likely to have prompted Father Haller to take up his position, as the latter also moved in enlightened circles under his Reformed employer. It is not known today whether the tutor lived with the Haller family, nor whether the father took his family with his three sons, who were then five, ten and thirteen years old, with him when he changed office to Baden .

It is also unclear where Albrecht grew up. The father owned the Hasligut estate in the Bremgartenwald, just under five kilometers from Bern across the Aare , where he was likely to have spent the first years of his life, but he could have moved to Baden at the age of five because his father took up the post of land clerk there. Another five years later, he would have to have lived in the Bernese area again, as his demonstrable attendance at the high school in Bern made this necessary. With the death of his father in 1721, both the supervision of the private tutor and Albrecht's study goal theology ended. Instead, he could have heard jurisprudence in Bern from Professor Johann Rudolf von Waldkirch (1678–1757) - in 1726 he held the office of Rector at the University of Basel - but the boy did not like it. Instead, he “practiced (...) mostly in poetry and history” and “finally got a taste for Arzney art, and his relatives became Johann Rudolf Neuhaus (1652–1724), the brother of his stepmother Salome Neuhaus (1664 –1732), who his father married in 1713, sent to Biel for instruction (...). " Albrecht knew Johann Rudolf Neuhaus junior (1701–1770) from their school days together in Bern. He was already a student at the Bern High School from 1716. In fact, the student Haller devoted himself entirely to poetry and ancient languages.

It is the family relationships that probably led Albrecht to Biel for a year before his studies abroad in Tübingen and Leiden. In addition to his mother's origins, there were also genealogical relationships through his father to the Wyttenbach patrician family , who came to Biel at the beginning of the 16th century. There his decision to study natural sciences and medicine must have matured. He was prepared for studying medicine abroad by Johann Rudolf Neuhaus junior and another Bernese, Samuel Wyttenbach. “It was in this environment that the thirteen-year-old first came into contact with the medical profession and medicine. He had developed a lively aversion to the Cartesian natural philosophy, which old Neuhaus let him study, but the foundation for medicine and his future career was laid in the Biel doctor's house. "

Study, research and work

Albrecht Haller studied natural sciences and medicine in Tübingen from 1723 . There he studied with Elias Camerarius, among others . In 1725 he traveled to Holland and received his doctorate in Leiden in 1727 with Herman Boerhaave . In England and France he took further training at prestigious educational institutions and hospitals and returned to Switzerland in 1728 to study mathematics and botany at the University of Basel . From 1729 he worked as a general practitioner in Bern, was given the post of city doctor in 1734 and became head of the Bern Central Library in 1735 . In 1736 he moved to the Electorate of Braunschweig-Lüneburg at the University of Göttingen, which had recently been founded, to the chair of anatomy, surgery and botany. He built an anatomical theater there in 1738 , a year later a botanical garden and built up a collection for an anatomical "cabinet". He was made an honorary doctorate and personal physician to George II . Albrecht von Haller rejected appointments to Utrecht and Oxford . Emperor Franz I raised him to hereditary nobility in 1749.

In 1747 he took over the management of the Gottingische Zeitung von scholarship , but refused an appointment to Berlin. His notorious querelle with his French colleague Julien Offray de La Mettrie (see lit.) also falls during this period . In 1751 he founded the Evangelical Reformed community in Göttingen together with 40 other people. Haller also took care of the construction of the church of the Reformed community , the construction work was completed on November 11, 1753. Haller placed the first pastor of the church as a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Göttingen. Haller used his authority as a naturalist to defend the Christian religion against various criticisms from Voltaire . On January 10, 1750 he was given the academic surname Herophilus III. elected as a member ( matriculation no. 560 ) of the Leopoldina .

At the beginning of 1752 Haller agreed to take over the direction of the first research trip by a German, Christlob Mylius , to America. He had been in correspondence with the self-taught scientist Mylius since January 1751. The idea for this trip through Suriname and British North America arose in the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin. Haller changed the travel destination to Eben-Ezer, Georgia , where he knew German contacts. The research trip was to be financed by a large number of sponsors, to which the traveler himself had to contribute. Haller, who as president of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen made the trip to an academy project and appointed Mylius as a corresponding academy member, refused a large donation from Austria by Gerard van Swieten , so that the financing of the trip remained fragile. In addition, there were organizational problems (short-term changes to the travel route, delays in the delivery of money and mail). Because of private matters, Haller had to leave in a hurry for Bern before Mylius could meet him in Göttingen. Mylius sent articles, translations and preparations ready for printing to Haller and his representative Samuel Christian Hollmann , but Haller repeatedly accused him of delaying travel and wasting money. The expedition finally failed with Mylius' death on March 6, 1754 after a serious illness in London.

In Bern Haller held the position of town hall administrator from 1753, became a school councilor in 1754, and head of the orphanage in 1755 . After his term in office he became director of the Roche Salt Mines in 1758 . He turned down the post of Chancellor in Göttingen that he had been offered after violent resistance from his family. His last years were marked by illness.

His estate is in the Bern Burger Library . His private library, comprising around 15,000 volumes, was sold by the heirs to Emperor Joseph II after his death, who passed the volumes on to the libraries of Milan, Padua and Pavia.

He was a son-in-law of the anatomist Hermann Friedrich Teichmeyer and the grandfather of the Swiss constitutional lawyer, politician, publicist and economist Karl Ludwig von Haller , whose main work The Restoration of Political Science (1816–1834) gave its name to the restoration era .



Illustration by Christian Jeremias Rollin in Haller's work Icones anatomicae
Elementa physiologiae corporis humani VIII

Haller's importance in the history of medicine lies primarily in his role as an anatomical scientist. By preparing almost 400 corpses, he succeeded in depicting the course of the arteries in the human body in a previously unattainable degree of perfection. Further studies focused on the flow of blood, the structure of the bone and embryonic development. The systematic implementation of numerous animal experiments to determine the sensitivity and irritability (irritability) of individual body parts, the results of which sparked a Europe-wide controversy, also makes him the founder of modern experimental physiology. Haller was the first to recognize the importance of blood vessels for healing bone fractures through experimental research. As a science organizer he made a decisive contribution to the institutional realization of the ideal of the unity of research and teaching through his work in the Göttingen Society of Sciences.

With the anatomical illustrations in the Icones anatomicae from 1756 he first depicted the course of the arteries in the human body. The illustrations for this work are by Christian Jeremias Rollin .

In his eight-volume standard work Elementa physiologiae corporis humani (1757–1766), which saw new editions well into the 20th century, Haller provided a critical compilation of the anatomical-physiological knowledge of his time. For the Yverdon Institute and the supplement volumes of the Paris Encyclopédie Haller wrote around 200 lexicon entries, some of which were considerable, on the fields of anatomy and physiology. In addition, he created three medical bibliographies in which the entire medical literature up to his time was listed and critically commented.


Haller emerged as a poet through his collection of poems, The Trial of Swiss Poems , first published in 1732 , which included the famous poem Die Alpen , dated 1729 by Haller himself . There was probably no poet with a German tongue in the 18th century who did not know this poem. His philosophical didactic poems on religious, ethical and metaphysical basic questions of the time: On the origin of evil and imperfections Poem about eternity from the expanded second edition of 1734, Haller wrote so many as a literary critic throughout his life Reviews of contemporary works that rumored he would still read even on horseback. In his old age, Haller wrote a number of political novels in which he played through basic models of state structures on historically distant subjects.

Fonts (selection)

Scientific writings

Poetic works

  • Haller in Holland . (Diary April 25, 1725 - May 23, 1727). Het dagboek van Albrecht by Haller van zijn verblijf in Holland (1725-1727), ingeleid en geannoteerd by Dr GA Lindeboom. Uitgave van de Kon. Ned. Gist- en Spiritusfabriek NV te Delft, 1958.
  • Trial of Swiss poems (!), Bern 1732 (including the poem Die Alpen from 1729) online ; "Second, increased and changed edition" udT attempt of Swiss poems from 1734, online , (including the poems On the Origin of Evil and the Imperfect Poem on Eternity ); further revisions with each edition; The versions of the “ninth, legal, increased and changed edition” and the attempt at Swiss poems from 1762, online have become classic .
  • Usong. An oriental story , 1771. online
  • Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons , 1773. online
  • Fabius and Cato , 1774. online
  • Letters about some objections from still living Freygeisters, Revelation (3 parts), 1775–1777. Volume 1 online , Volume 2 , Volume 3


Von Haller was in lively correspondence with various important people of his time. Albrecht von Haller was one of the most prolific correspondents of the 18th century. This is evidenced by over 12,000 letters addressed to him and 17,000 written by him, which make up that part of Haller's estate that is now kept in the Bern burger library. The content essentially served the scientific exchange, as was generally cultivated by scholars in the 18th century. Mention should be made of his letters to Johannes Gessner , Charles Bonnet , Simon-Auguste Tissot , Eberhard Friedrich von Gemmingen , Horace-Bénédict de Saussure , Giovanni Battista Morgagni , Ignazio Somis (1718–1793), Carl von Linné , Christian Gottlob Heyne and Marc Antonio Caldani (1725-1813). Haller was aware of the scientific importance of his collection of letters. He himself began to publish numerous of his letters in Latin and German in several volumes. Much of his correspondence was aimed at later publication right from the start. Several correspondences were edited during Haller's lifetime and since then.

The majority of the letters to Haller are now in the Bern Burger Library . Letters from Haller himself are much rarer to find and are scattered across Europe in archives. Since 2019, edited letters, digital copies or transcriptions of all Haller correspondence have gradually been made available online on the hallerNet site . The digitized copies of the letters in Bern are currently available. In the medium term, the edition and retro edition of 8000 letters is planned.


Albrecht von Haller, bust in the auditorium of the University of Göttingen

Haller received a large number of honors and awards both during his lifetime and after his death. Numerous technical terms are associated with his name, especially in anatomy .

During his lifetime

After his death

  • On the 500-franc banknote of the Swiss National Bank from 1976 (sixth series) Haller is displayed.
  • In Bern there is an attic statue of Haller on the facade of the main building of the Kantonalbank .
  • The monument to Haller, inaugurated on October 16, 1908, by the sculptor Hugo Siegwart, stands on the Grosse Schanze in front of the University of Bern .
  • On the occasion of Albrecht von Haller's 300th birthday, the Swiss Post issued a special stamp worth 85 cents in spring 2008. It shows four profile photos of Haller, three profiles indicate Haller's work in medicine, botany and literature. The fourth (and foremost) profile shows a bronzed plaster bust of Albrecht von Haller.
  • In Göttingen, the Institute for Plant Sciences at the Georg August University was named after Albrecht von Haller. The university's medical faculty awards the Albrecht von Haller Medal . There is a portrait bust in the university auditorium, as well as in the Old Botanical Garden.
  • The University of Bern awards the Haller Medal as one of its academic honors.
  • The portrait of Haller adorns the medallion of the golden rectorate chain of the University of Bern.
  • A bust of Haller was erected in the Walhalla near Regensburg.
  • Bust by Theodor Wagner (1800–1880) around 1829 on behalf of the Hereditary Grand Duke of Oldenburg for the Grand Ducal Library, today in the Oldenburg State Library .
  • In 1894 the Hallergasse in Vienna was named after him.
  • Halfway between Münsingen and Wichtrach there is a memorial stone in memory of Haller.
  • The Halleriana Bernensis student association named itself after him in Haller's honor.

Names and technical terms


  • Haller's vascular ring, Circulus arteriosus (vasculosus) nervi optici: The arterial ring around the point of entry of the optic nerve into the eyeball, which is connected by the Aa. ciliares posteriores. The vessels pass into the eyeball and form the Haller's layer (lamina vasculosa) in the choroid . The discovery of the circular arteriosus nervi optici is also attributed to the Göttingen ophthalmologist Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727–1759). The priority is difficult to decide because the lifetimes of both researchers overlap. Zinn is likely to have made his observations from 1753 to 1755 and thus possibly earlier than v. Haller.
  • Tripus Halleri: The division of the arterial celiac trunk into its three branches: A. hepatica communis, A. splenica (seu lienalis), A. gastrica left.
  • Ansa Halleri: Anastomosis of the glossopharyngeal nerve with the facial nerve . What v. Haller could not have known at the time that this anastomosis is about the parasympathetic innervation of the parotid gland . The fibers from the inferior salivator nucleus run via the glossopharyngeal nerve, tympanic plexus, minor petrosus nerve to the otic ganglion, where they are switched to their second neuron. The postganglionic parasympathetic fibers attach to the auriculotemporal nerve of the mandibular nerve (3rd trigeminal branch) and come with it to the area in front of the ear, where they anastomose with the parotid plexus of the facial nerve.
  • Ansa Haller-Sappey: Anastomosis of the glossopharyngeal nerve with the auricular branch of the vagus nerve for the sensitive innervation of the external auditory canal.
  • Arcus lumbocostalis medialis et lateralis seu Ligamentum arcuatum internum et externum diaphragmatis Halleri: The psoasarcade and the quadratusarcade, which together form the crus laterale of the pars lumbalis of the diaphragm .
  • A. abdominalis subcutanea von Haller: Today arteria epigastrica superficialis .
  • A. alaris Halleri seu alaris glandulosa axillaris seu alaris thoracica: branch of the artery for the skin and lymph nodes of the armpit. It is no longer listed in modern anatomy books and should be an unnamed branch of the superior thoracic artery or the lateral thoracic artery.
  • Circulus callosus Halleri: The anulus fibrosus cordis, the connective tissue cardiac skeleton at the border between the antechambers and chambers of the heart for the attachment of the two leaflet valves.
  • Circulus venosus mamillae Halleri: The plexus of veins around the nipple.
  • Coni vasculosi Halleri: This meant by v. Haller not only the Coni vasculosi sensu strictu (the ductuli efferentes in the head of the epididymis), but all the tubules in the testicle.
  • Fretum Halleri: The narrow point between the embryonic heart and the aortic bulb, where the pockets of the aortic valve later develop.
  • Glandulae Halleri: Solitary lymph follicles in the intestine.
  • Habenula Halleri: The rudimentary vaginal process of the peritoneum. The processus vaginalis is a protrusion of the peritoneum through the inguinal canal. In men, its distal end becomes the scrotum serosum, which contains the testicle after it has descended. The proximal part of the vaginal process obliterates and usually recedes. If it persists, it can give up the hernial sac for congenital inguinal hernias. In women, the entire vaginal process usually recedes. If it persists, it is called Diverticulum Nucki after the Leiden anatomist Anton Nuck (1650–1692).
  • Ligamentum colicum Halleri: The right part of the lig. Gastrocolicum, i.e. part of the large network (omentum majus).
  • Pons hepaticus Halleri: A functionally insignificant, facultative bridge made of liver tissue over the junction of the lig. Teres hepatis.
  • Rete vasculosum testis (v. Haller): The rete testis in the mediastinum testis ( testicles ).
  • Taenia semicircularis thalami (v. Haller): A layer in the corpus geniculatum laterale of the diencephalon.
  • Vasa aberrantia Halleri: Name for the efferent ducts, which persist as urinary ducts, but do not find any connection to the Wolff duct (uterine duct, later epididymal duct).
  • Velum plexus chorioidei interpositum Halleri: The Tela chorioidea in the third cerebral ventricle of the diencephalon.
  • Haller blind sack: Sinus obliquus pericardii in the heart.
  • Haller hernia: hernia vaginalis. Very rare hernia through the structure of the pelvic floor.




  • The Haller Rocks , a group of reef rocks in the Antarctic Palmer Archipelago, have been named after him since 1960.


Web links

Commons : Albrecht von Haller  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Albrecht von Haller  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Haller, Albert de in the Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz
  2. Robert L. Wyss: The friendship cup of the bailiffs of Aarwangen, Bipp and Wangen. Goldsmith's work by Hans Peter Staffelbach, 1707. In: Jahrbuch des Oberaargaus 1980. Contributions to history and local history. 23rd vol., Langenthal 1980, pp. 99-111
  3. Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777) on his 300th birthday (PDF), at, accessed on March 6, 2019.
  4. Bernese gender at, accessed on March 6, 2019.
  5. ^ A b c Urs Boschung : A defining year for the later doctor and researcher. Albrecht von Haller in Biel, 1722–1723 ( Memento from February 12, 2015 in the Internet Archive ). In: “Bieler Jahrbuch / Annales biennoises” 2009, pp. 26–58
  6. March description about the Bremgarten forest and the Hasli estate, 1820-1826 VA FB 93 (bundle / codices / volumes)
  7. ^ Haller, in Hans Jacob Leu : General Helvetisches, Eydgenössisches or Schweitzerisches Lexicon, Vol. 9. Zurich 1754, pp. 438–452
  8. a b Urs Boschung: The doctor who pushed into research. ( Memento from August 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) UniPress 135/2007, p. 15f.
  9. General German real encyclopedia for the educated classes , Conversations-Lexikon, Volume 6, 9th edition, FA Brockhaus, Leipzig 1844, p. 585.
  10. ^ The anatomical theater was later replaced by a new building that opened in 1829.
  11. Richard Toellner : Albrecht von Haller , in: Wolfgang U. Eckart and Christoph Gradmann (eds.): Ärztelexikon. From antiquity to the 20th century , 1st edition CH Beck Munich 1995, 2nd edition Springer Heidelberg, Berlin et al. 2001, 3rd edition. Springer Heidelberg, Berlin et al. 2006, pp. 152 + 153, print and online version ( ISBN 978-3-540-29584-6 or ISBN 978-3-540-29585-3 ).
  12. Hans Herzog: On the history of Albrecht von Haller's library. In: Centralblatt für Bibliothekswesen. Volume 17, 1900, p. 484 f.
  13. Letitia Pecorella Vermöano: Il Fondo Halleriano della Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense di Milano. Vicende Storiche e Catalogo dei Manoscritti. Milan 1965 (= Studi e Testi , 8), p. 10.
  14. Kristian Boselmann-Cyran: Another text witness of Johann Hartlieb's 'Secreta mulierum' and 'Buch Trotula' adaptation: The Milan Codex AE. IX. 34 from the private library of the doctor and writer Albrecht von Haller. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 13, 1995, pp. 209-215; here: p. 210.
  15. Albertus v. Haller: Experimentorum de ossium formatione. In: Operum anatomici argumenti minorum, Vol. 2. Francisco Grasset, Lausanne 1767, pp. 460–600.
  16. ^ Print editions in: Collection Haller. In: hallerNet. Retrieved on May 15, 2019 (German).
  17. a b Urs Boschung, Barbara Braun-Bucher, Stefan Hächler, Anne Kathrin Ott, Hubert Steinke, Martin Stuber (eds.): Repertory for Albrecht von Haller's correspondence 1724–1777 . 2 vols. Schwabe Verlag, Basel 2002, ISBN 3-7965-1325-5 .
  18. ^ Estate in: Haller Collection. In: hallerNet. Retrieved on May 15, 2019 (German).
  19. a b Correspondence in: Collection Haller. In: hallerNet. Retrieved on May 15, 2019 (German).
  20. ^ Haller Collection. In: hallerNet. Retrieved on May 15, 2019 (German).
  21. SNF project hallerNet. In: hallerNet. Retrieved on May 15, 2019 (German).
  22. October 16, 1908, memorial for Haller
  23. Jürgen Beutin: Art in architecture. Works of fine art in the Oldenburg State Library. In: Egbert Koolmann (Ed.): Ex Bibliotheca Oldenburgensi. Library research on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Oldenburg State Library. Holzberg, Oldenburg 1992, ISBN 3-87358-380-1 , p. 361 ff.