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Amanuensis (plural: Amanuenses) is an outdated name for a secretary or clerk of a scholar. The term is of Latin origin and can be translated literally as "manual worker" or "handyman".


In ancient Rome, Amanuensis was the name given to a slave who “had to shake hands” with his master for manual work in his service. The term was later applied specifically to a close servant, often a freedman , who served as his master's personal secretary.

Amanuenses since early modern times

In the academic field

In the academic field, Amanuensis was used to describe a writer who supported a disabled or injured person in a written examination or in the preparation of written work. The term was also used for research assistants in libraries, archives or museums as well as for research assistants who were working on their own academic work. At observatories, the amanuensis was the observer's assistant . In chemistry or physics , the term referred to a technically trained laboratory assistant who was responsible for preparing tests, experiments and maintaining the instruments.

In Denmark the title was used from 1960 to 1972 for auxiliary professorships. In Norway, the title Amanuensis is the equivalent of the US American Assistant Professor , while Førsteamanuensis (ie “first” Amanuensis) is the equivalent of the US American Associate Professor . The Amanuensis can therefore be compared with the junior professorship and the Førsteamanuensis with the W2 professorship in Germany.

In other areas

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Amanuensis was the professional designation for male secretaries who were available for services on ships or in trains for travelers in the higher classes of transport. In the English-speaking area, employers sometimes used the term for, mostly unskilled, workers at the lower end of the hierarchy, cf. Factotum and Famulus .

Major amanuenses

While the term has seldom been used since the early 20th century, the secretaries and close collaborators of scientists and scholars were usually referred to in older scriptures. The activity as an amanuensis, in addition to that of the private tutor , has been a common career start for young academics since the early modern period .

Amanuensis Life dates in the service of:
Marcus Tullius Tiro 104 BC BC - 4 BC Chr. Marcus Tullius Cicero
Tertius of Iconium 1st century Paul of Tarsus
Johannes Gramann 1487-1541 Johannes Eck , later by Martin Luther
Francesco Melzi around 1491/92 − around 1570 Leonardo da Vinci
Karl von Utenhove the Elder around 1500–1580 Erasmus from Rotterdam
Veit Dietrich 1506-1549 Martin Luther
Johannes Oporinus 1507-1568 Paracelsus
Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679 Francis Bacon
Johann Friedrich Hodann 1674-1745 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
John Christopher Smith the Elder 1683-1763 georg Friedrich Handel
John Christopher Smith the Younger 1712-1795 georg Friedrich Handel
Andreas Lamey 1726-1802 Johann Daniel Schöpflin
God of honor Andreas Wasianski 1755-1831 Immanuel Kant
Friedrich Wilhelm Riemer 1774-1845 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Michael Faraday 1791-1867 Humphry Davy
Georg Schulze 1807-1866 Jakob Grimm
Wilhelm Altmann 1862-1951 Leopold von Ranke
Eugen Täubler 1879-1953 Theodor Mommsen

In modern literature

In the thriller "Hologrammatica" by Tom Hillenbrand (published in 2018 by Kiepenheuer & Witsch), a personal digital assistant (similar to the Google Assistant ) is referred to as Amanuensis . Its basic functions are those of a search engine, including image research, hotel bookings, appointment management, etc. Its capabilities go far beyond that, since the novel is set in 2088.

See also


  • Klaus Hentschel : Invisible hands. On the role of laboratory assistants, mechanics, draftsmen and other amanuenses in physical research and development . Publishing house for the history of natural sciences and technology, Diepholz, Stuttgart, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-928186-85-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Amanuensis  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Copyists  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The store Danske Encyklopædi: amanuensis , accessed August 2013, Danish
  2. Official Norwegian-English translation list of professional titles at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
  3. Karl Alfred von HasePoliander, Johann . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 9, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1879, p. 576 f.
  4. ^ Johann Jakob HerzogDietrich, Veit . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 5, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1877, p. 196 f.
  5. ^ Karl SteiffOporinus, Johannes . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 24, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1887, pp. 381-387.
  6. Mentioned in: Carl von PrantlGottfried Wilhelm Leibniz . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 18, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1883, pp. 172-209.
  7. Mentioned in: Peter Fuchs:  Andreas.html # ndbcontent Lamey, Andreas. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 13, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-428-00194-X , p. 444 ( digitized version ).
  8. Mentioned in: Carl von PrantlImmanuel Kant . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 15, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1882, pp. 81-97.
  9. ^ Heinrich PröhleSchulze, Georg . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 32, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1891, p. 775 f.