Justinus Kerner

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Justinus Kerner 1852, a jew's harp in hand . Painting by Ottavio d'Albuzzi, a former patient of Kerner.
Lithograph after a drawing by Anton Duttenhofer from 1841
Kerner's wife Friederike, called Rickele. Painting by Alexander Bruckmann
The Kernerhaus around 1826. Ink drawing by Carl Dörr
Serach poets in the Kernerhaus. From left: Theobald Kerner, Nikolaus Lenau , Gustav Schwab , Count Alexander von Württemberg , Karl Mayer , Justinus Kerner, Friederike Kerner, Ludwig Uhland , Karl August Varnhagen von Ense (colored engraving after an oil painting by Heinrich von Rustige )
Kerner, surprised by an apparition while playing jew's harp (pencil drawing by Kerner)
So-called Klecksographie Kerner with his metaphorical lines in the meter , in his own handwriting:
From Dintenfleken very low
Arose the beautiful butterfly.
For such a change, I
commend my fleecy soul to God.

Justinus Kerner
Justinus Kerner's house in Weinsberg
View from the garden

Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner, von Kerner from 1850 , (born September 18, 1786 in Ludwigsburg ; † February 21, 1862 in Weinsberg ) was a German doctor, medical writer and poet.


Origin and school time

His father, Christoph Ludwig Kerner, was, like his grandfather, Johann Georg Kerner, a chief magistrate in Ludwigsburg . His mother was Friederike Luise, b. Stockmaier (1750-1817). Justinus was the youngest of six children. His eldest brother Johann Georg became known as a chronicler of the French Revolution, his brother Karl became a general, metallurgical specialist and briefly Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom of Württemberg . He had another brother and two sisters.

Justinus Kerner went to school in Ludwigsburg and was first instructed in Maulbronn , where his father had been transferred, by scholarship holders from the local monastery school, then he received lessons in Knittlingen . After the death of his father in 1799, his mother sent Justinus, who was still underage, to the office of the ducal cloth factory in Ludwigsburg as a commercial apprentice. Kerner did not like the dull work and so he looked for activities that gave him more pleasure. He began to write poetry and to amuse the sick of the madhouse in the same building by playing the jaw harp .


His former pastor and teacher Karl Philipp Conz , now a poet and professor of ancient languages ​​at the University of Tübingen , got Kerner's mother to be allowed to study, and so Justinus studied medicine and natural sciences in Tübingen from 1804 until his doctorate in 1808.

During his student days he was friends with Ludwig Uhland , Karl Mayer , Gustav Schwab and Karl Heinrich Gotthilf von Köstlin , from which the core of the Swabian School of Poetry was later to develop, of which Kerner was one of the most famous representatives.

In 1807 he learned at a ceremony on the occasion of Uhland's birthday his future wife Friederike Ehmann (January 9, 1786 - April 4, 1854) from Ruit auf den Fildern know, he Rickele (from Ruit) called, whom he married in 1813, and in many Poems immortalized. The daughters Marie ( married Niethammer; December 2, 1813 - April 14, 1886) and Emma (Gsell; November 16, 1822 - November 26, 1895) and their son Theobald (June 14, 1817 - November 11 , 1895) went out of the marriage August 1907).

Kerner had a close friendship with his fellow student and doctor colleague David Assing in Hamburg, who had cured Friederike Ehmann in a serious illness, as well as with Assing's wife Rosa Maria and her brother Karl August Varnhagen von Ense in Berlin. This friendship extended to Assing's daughters Ottilie and Ludmilla and continued in the next generation with Theobald. Kerner was also in contact with the Germanist Joseph von Laßberg at Meersburg Castle .

Kerner as a doctor and writer

After his studies and several trips, he worked as a doctor from 1810, first in Dürrmenz , from 1811 as a spa doctor in Wildbad and from 1812 as a general practitioner in Welzheim . In 1815 he became senior doctor in Gaildorf , and in 1819 in Weinsberg . He carried out this activity until 1851, when he was retired due to an eye disease ( cataract ). In Weinsberg, after the family had previously lived mostly in very cramped living conditions, he had the house built in the former city moat in 1822, which can still be viewed today as the Kernerhaus . The house, which was expanded several times, and the neighboring medieval ghost tower , which was acquired after 1823, housed Kerner's large collection of art objects and were hospitable meeting points for Kerner's large circle of friends. Ludwig Uhland, Gustav Schwab, Nikolaus Lenau , the brothers Karl and Louis Mayer and Alexander von Württemberg went in and out there. His son Theobald Kerner , also a doctor and writer, reported on this in his book Das Kernerhaus und seine Zeiten , published in 1894 . Kerner also belonged to the Serach poet circle and had a circle of friends in Munich . His daughter Marie , married. Niethammer, was a writer and wrote the book The Life of Justinus Kerner - based on letters and personal memories .

His style is described as simple and intimate, with melancholy as well as humor and genuine devotion to the heart in his works. Some of his poems are very well known, also as songs, such as The Richest Prince , Wanderlied ( "Wohlauf! Still drunk the sparkling wine!" ) Or The Wanderer in the Sägmühle , even if it is often not aware that these are poems by Kerner . The song cycle Twelve Poems by Justinus Kerner for voice and piano op. 35 by Robert Schumann from 1840 is still frequently performed in the concert halls today.

Later Kerner turned to spiritualistic , occult and somnambulistic questions. He took in Prevorst's seer , Friederike Hauffe (1801–1829), for some time and in 1829 published two books about her.

Kerner's delight in the grotesque is evident in his "Klecksographien". The source of this preoccupation were the “ink pigs” that sometimes fell on the letters and manuscripts of the almost blind poet. By folding the paper, he created abstract drawings from the crushed ink blots, which he tried to give a narrative representation with a few additional pen strokes. The original "Hadesbuch" compiled by him from blotchographs is preserved in the Schiller National Museum in Marbach am Neckar . At the beginning of the 20th century, the Swiss psychoanalyst Hermann Rorschach used such "drawings" by his patients in the Rorschach test, which was named after him and which was always controversial, to determine perception, intelligence and emotional characteristics.

Out of an interest in local history, he endeavored to write history in Weinsberg and to preserve the Weibertreu castle ruins . The women's association in Weinsberg, which he initiated in 1823 (since the merger in 1920, today Justinus-Kerner-Verein and Frauenverein Weinsberg) is still in possession of the castle ruins and manages them. In 1819 he wrote an essay on the church of Weinsberg and in 1820 based on handwritten sources an essay (1822 as a book) on Weinsberg in the Peasants' War , the storming of the city of Weinsberg by the bright Christian heaps in 1525 and its consequences for this city .

His enduring achievement as a doctor is the first clinical description of the bacterial food poisoning botulism in a long journal article published in 1817 and in his 1822 book Das Fettgift or the fatty acid and its effects on the animal organism. A contribution to the investigation of the toxic substance in spoiled sausages .

Justinus Kerner died in 1862 and was buried in the Weinsberg cemetery next to his wife Rickele, who had died in 1854. The grave still exists today.

Famous works



  • The Homeless (1816, ISBN 3-933292-73-5 )
  • History of two somnambulas. Along with a few other memorable items from the field of magical medicine and psychology. Braun, Karlsruhe 1824. ( digitized version )



  • The mad sandler. A political and dramatic prompt to be performed with puppets. Stuttgart 1817.

Medical and scientific writings

  • The Wildbad in the Kingdom of Württemberg. (1813, ISBN 3-921841-26-7 )
  • The fatty poison or fatty acid and its effect on the animal organism. Cotta, Stuttgart and Tübingen 1822. ( digitized version )
  • Story of two somnambulists. Braun, Karlsruhe 1824.
  • The seer of Prevorst. Openings about the inner life of man and about the protrusion of a spirit world into ours. Cotta, Stuttgart and Tübingen 1829. ( digitized volume 1 ), ( volume 2 ) revised new edition 2012, ISBN 978-3-7984-0815-9 )
  • Leaves from Prevorst (from 1831)
  • Stories of modern times obsessed. (1834) ( digitized version and full text in the German text archive )
  • A phenomenon from the night realms of nature. Judicially confirmed by a number of witnesses and informed of the concerns of naturalists. Cotta, Stuttgart and Tübingen 1836. ( digitized version )
  • News of the occurrence of being possessed by a demonic-magnetic affliction and its healing by magical-magnetic influence, which was already known in antiquity, in a letter to the Chief Medical Councilor Dr. Schelling in Stuttgart. Cotta, Stuttgart and Augsburg 1836. ( digitized )
  • Magikon. Archive for observations from the field of ghost science and magnetic and magical life. Stuttgart 1840-1853 ( ISBN 3-923620-03-9 )
  • Franz Anton Mesmer from Swabia, discoverer of animal magnetism. Memories of the same, along with news from the last years of his life in Meersburg on Lake Constance. Frankfurt am Main, Literarisches Anstalt 1856. Digitized by Google


  • Picture book from my boyhood. Memories from the years 1786 to 1804. Braunschweig 1849; New edition: ISBN 3-458-32038-5


When writing his works, ink blots (Swabian "Dintensäue") often defaced what was written. These blobs stimulated Kerner's imagination, he "saw" figures in them and worked out figures and faces with a few strokes of the pen ( pareidolia ). For these figures, which he also referred to as "Hades pictures", he wrote down small texts that gave them a deeper meaning ( apophenia ).

  • Kleksographs. (Published in 1890 by his son Theobald, digitized )
  • A. Berger-Fix (Ed.): Only when one speaks of ghosts. Letters and blotchographs. Stuttgart 1986.

Justinus Kerner Medal

The Medical Association of Public Health Service Baden-Württemberg has been awarding the Justinus Kerner Medal since 1979. It is awarded to personalities who have rendered outstanding services to the public health service in Baden-Württemberg . Previous winners are:

  • 1979: Ernst Eschner, Mannheim Health Department and Hanns Hufnagel, Stuttgart Health Department
  • 1980: Karl Breu, Ludwigsburg Health Department,
  • 1981: Wolfdietrich Graff, Health Department Lörrach and Erich Hansen, Bruchsal
  • 1982: Franz Braun, Tübingen Health Department, youth dentist
  • 1983: Bertha Bausch, Ludwigsburg Health Department and Hellmuth Aldinger, Ulm Health Department
  • 1984: Werner Bauer, Tübingen Health Department
  • 1985: Christian Göttsching, Health Department Freiburg / Social Ministry Stuttgart
  • 1986: Annemarie Griesinger , former Minister of Social Affairs D., Markgröningen and Gerhard Neumann, Stuttgart Health Department
  • 1987: Walter Steuer, former president D. of the State Health Office Baden-Württemberg (formerly MLUA), Stuttgart
  • 1992: Hans Stöckle, retired department director D., Regional Council Stuttgart
  • 1998: Clara Sacré, Baden-Württemberg State Health Office, Stuttgart
  • 2003: Wiland Weik, Freiburg Regional Council
  • 2011: Monika Stolz , Minister of Social Affairs Baden-Württemberg and Thomas Halder, Ministerial Director, Minister of Social Affairs Baden-Württemberg
  • 2012: Peter-Joachim Oertel, Health Department Tübingen
  • 2013: Thomas Reumann , District Administrator, Reutlingen
  • 2016: Klaus Walter and Edith Herzog, Ostalbkreis Health Department, Aalen

Justinus Kerner Prize

On the occasion of Justinus Kerner's 200th birthday in 1986, the city of Weinsberg donated the Justinus Kerner Prize. It has been awarded every three years since 1990 to people who have achieved outstanding achievements in connection with Kerner's life's work or in his sense in the literary, medical or home and monument conservation area. The award ceremony takes place on September 18th, Justinus Kerner's birthday, in Weinsberg, with the winner being announced towards the end of the previous year. The prize is endowed with 5000 euros. Previous winners are:


Justinus Kerner's old age picture, taken a few years before his death

In the year of his retirement in 1850, Justinus Kerner was made a knight of the Order of the Württemberg Crown , which was associated with the personal nobility. In 1854, the Bavarian King Maximilian II accepted him into the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art .

The grape variety Kerner was named in honor of Justinus Kerner, which was crossed from red Trollinger and white Riesling in 1929 by the State Training and Research Institute for Viticulture and Fruit Growing located in Weinsberg .

In Tübingen, Ludwigsburg, Munich and other cities, streets are named after Kerner. There are schools named after Justinus Kerner in several cities; in Heilbronn and Weinsberg high schools bear his name, in Ludwigsburg a Werk-Realschule.

In Gaildorf , on the southeastern edge of the Mainhardter Forest , who built Swabian Albverein in 1902 on the 458  m high Kirgel a lookout tower and named it after the doctor and poet and his son Theobald Kerner Tower .


Information about Justinus Kerner is given in the magazine Mitteilungen of the Justinus Kerner Association and Women's Association Weinsberg , published by the Justinus Kerner Association in Weinsberg .


Web links

Commons : Justinus Kerner  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Justinus Kerner  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Dissertatio medica sistens observata de functione singularum partium auris. Medical dissertation Tübingen 1808.
  2. See Ludwig Geiger: Letters from Justinus Kerner to Varnhagen von Ense. In: North and South . A German monthly publication 92 (1900), issue 274 (January); ders .: [Review] Justinus Kerner's correspondence with his friends ... In: Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie 31 (1898)
  3. Nikolaus Gatter: Poet friendship among loyal women - and men. The Varnhagen Society visits the Justinus Kerner House. In: ALG review. Journal of the Working Group of Literary Societies No. 35, July 2006, p. 6 f.
  4. Justinus-Kerner-Verein.de - The women's association. In: www.justinus-kerner-verein.de. Retrieved May 22, 2016 .
  5. Kerner J: About the sausage poison. In: Tübingen sheets for natural sciences and medicine . tape 3 , 1817, p. 1-25 .
  6. Holders of the Justinus Kerner Medal at aerzte-oegd-bw.de (accessed on May 9, 2016)
  7. Carl Herzog von Württemberg receives the Justinus Kerner Prize . Heilbronn Voice , April 25, 2017
  8. Anja Krezer: For the second time, the Kerner Prize goes to a woman . Stimme.de , July 14, 2020
  9. Royal Württemberg Court and State Handbook 1858 . Aue, Stuttgart 1858, p. 46 ( full text in Google Book Search).
  10. Hans Körner: Justinus Kerner and the Bavarian Maximilians Order for Science and Art (1853/54). In: Yearbook for Swabian-Franconian History. Volume 31. Heilbronn Historical Association, Heilbronn 1986, pp. 199–204
  11. ^ Tom Stevenson: The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia . 4th edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2005, ISBN 0-7566-1324-8 , pp. 379 .
  12. The Kerner Tower. A landmark of the city of Gaildorf at the Swabian Alb Association, local group Gaildorf ( Memento from July 9, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  13. ^ Biogram, work article on Wanderer in der Sägmühle and Seer from Prevorst
  14. 98 pages