Leonhard Thurneysser

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Frans Floris de Vriendt I .: Portrait of Leonhard Thurneysser, 1569? (Kunstmuseum Basel)
Signature Leonhard Thurneysser.PNG

Leonhard Thurneysser (zum Thurn) - also Leonhard Thurneisser - (* July 22, 1531 in Basel ; † August 8, 1596 in or near Cologne ) was a goldsmith, metallurgist and metallurgical technician as well as a scholar and worked as a personal physician at the court of the Brandenburg Elector Johann Georg .

Live and act

As the son of a goldsmith , he developed an interest in mineralogy and alchemy . He learned the goldsmith's trade from his father and served about the Basel medical professor Johannes Huber as addition famulus to collect and helped prepare herbs and medicines. He later used this knowledge in his writing Historia . With Huber, Thurneysser also found access to the writings of Paracelsus , which shaped him deeply.

From 1547 Leonhard Thurneysser led a wandering life until he married in his home town of Basel in 1555. He became a member of the "Guild of Households" (money changers and goldsmiths). However, Thurneysser went hiking again in 1558.

In 1559 he worked successfully as a metallurgist in the Tyrolean Tarrenz and became an entrepreneur in a mine. Soon Thurneysser was considered an expert in the fields of pharmacy , chemistry , metallurgy , botany , mathematics , astronomy and medicine with the emperor Ferdinand I and his sons, as well as with personalities such as the scholars Pietro Paolo Vergerio and Gerolamo Cardano and others . The wife of Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg, Prince of Tyrol Philippine Welser, prompted Thurneysser to travel further, including through the Orient and North Africa. He collected minerals, plants and medicinal prescriptions. After these trips, he no longer saw himself as a metallurgist, but now practiced as a pharmacy doctor.

Leonhard Thurneysser lived in Münster from 1569 to 1570 . The local bishop Johann III. von Hoya gave his personal physician Thurneysser the order to set up a pharmacy, but Thurneysser's ideas about the equipment of the pharmacy exceeded the bishop's means.

The first meeting between Thurneysser and the Brandenburg Elector Johann Georg took place in Frankfurt on the Oder , where Thurneysser healed the ailing wife of the Elector. Johann Georg then appointed him his personal physician and took him to Berlin with a salary of 1,352 thalers. For his work, Johann Georg made part of the former Franciscan monastery available to him, which is now known as the Gray Monastery . Thurneysser also led the construction of the glassworks at Grimnitz Castle .

Leonhard Thurneysser set up his apartment, library, print shop and laboratories in the Gray Monastery. Due to his self-created healing methods and obvious medical charlatanry , who had also worked as an alchemist and gold maker, he quickly became a rich man, and he also sold astrological calendars , horoscopes and talismans to protect against evil. He claimed that he knew places in the Mark Brandenburg where sapphires , rubies and emeralds could be found, and that the mud of the Spree also contained gold . In his print shop he produced fonts in a wide variety of alphabets and used not only German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew letters but also those with Arabic characters. He set up the first scientific cabinet in Brandenburg, laid out a botanical garden and kept exotic animals on the farm.

A turning point in his life was a trip to his hometown Basel in 1579. Here he married his third wife and brought a large part of his wealth to Basel. After violent disputes with his wife, Leonhard Thurneysser returned to Berlin in 1580, but lost his possessions in Basel, which were confiscated and given to the woman. In 1584 he left Berlin for good and was baptized as a Catholic . Wilhelm Hilden took over his printing works in Berlin for a short time . For a short time he lived in Rome ; In 1595 he died impoverished under unexplained circumstances in a monastery near Cologne . On July 8, 1596, he was buried with the Dominicans in the Cologne preacher monastery "ad latus Alberti Magni".

One of the most impressive books from his workshop is also one of his main works, his Archidoxa , a large-format book in the form of an astrolabe with planetary tables, which - provided that it is used correctly - should enable the user to make predictions about personal fate or natural events. The graphic design was done by the eraser, woodcut maker and draftsman Jost Amman . The full title of the second edition in the orthography of the time is:

Archidoxa . Dorin who was right motus, running and gait also clandestine, effect and power of the planets forehead and whole firmament mutation and removal of all subtleties and the fifth essence of metals sampled from the understanding and understanding of the astrolabe and all circles characters and signs.
On the other hand vnd now from newen and sampt give the mind of the character to day. Through Leonhart Thurneisser to Thurn. Electoral Brandenburg Order Leibs Medicum. Berlin: In the Grawen Closter. 1575

In 1583 he also wrote an encyclopedia-like font Magna Alchymia , which contained a dictionary of terms as used by Paracelsus . This document also contained the collection of his mineralogical knowledge.

In 1891, Thurneysserstrasse in Berlin-Gesundbrunnen was named after him .


  • Archidoxa
  • Praeoccupatio through twelve different treatises [...]. Frankfurt on the Oder 1571
  • From cold, warm, mineral and metallic waters. Sampt the comparison of the Plantarum and Ergewechsen [...], 1572
  • Bebaiosis agonismou. That is confirmatio Concertationis [...]. Berlin 1576
  • Magna Alchymia, 1583
  • Melitsah kai hermeneia that is an onomasticum, 1583
  • Historia and description of influential, elemental and native natural effects of all foreign and native geological systems, Berlin 1578, translated as Historia sive descriptio plantarum , 1578


Web links

Commons : Leonhard Thurneysser  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Leonhard Thurneysser  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Friedrich v. Zglinicki : Uroscopy in the fine arts. An art and medical historical study of the urine examination. Ernst Giebeler, Darmstadt 1982, ISBN 3-921956-24-2 , p. 13.
  2. ^ Christoph Reske: The book printers of the 16th and 17th centuries in the German-speaking area (= contributions to books and libraries. Volume 51). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2015, ISBN 978-3-447-10416-6 , p. 109.
  3. Peter Rawert: From salvation through initiation . In: FAZ , February 17, 2007
  4. Thurneysserstrasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )