Wilhelm Schickard

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Wilhelm Schickard portrayed by Conrad Melperger 1632, inventory of the Tübingen Professorengalerie

Wilhelm Schickard (born April 22, 1592 in Herrenberg , † October 23, 1635 in Tübingen ) was a German astronomer , geodesist and mathematician . He taught Hebrew and astronomy at the University of Tübingen . He also used his name in the variants Schickhart, Schickhard, Schickart, Schickardt and Latinized forms from them.


Wilhelm Schickard was born the son of the carpenter Lucas Schickhardt and the pastor's daughter Margarete Gmelin and was the nephew of the builder Heinrich Schickhardt and Wilhelm Gmelin . He attended the monastery school in Bebenhausen and was accepted into the Tübingen monastery in 1610 . At the University of Tübingen he obtained his master's degree in 1611 and then studied theology. From 1613 he was vicar in several places in Württemberg until he was appointed deacon in Nürtingen in 1614 . There he met Johannes Kepler in 1617 , who had come to Tübingen to defend his mother in a witch trial. For Kepler's work Harmonice mundi , he created several copper engravings and woodcuts.

Schickard belonged in Tübingen to the circle of friends of the chiliastic lawyer and theosophist Tobias Hess . This group also included, for example, Johann Valentin Andreae , Christoph Besold , Wilhelm Bidembach von Treuenfels , Abraham Hölzel , Thomas Lansius and Samuel Hafenreffer, as well as Johann Jakob Heinlin , who initially represented his professorship at the University of Tübingen after Schickard's death.

The portrait from 1632 shown here is in the collection of professor portraits at the University of Tübingen .

In 1619 he was appointed professor of Hebrew at the University of Tübingen. While teaching, he looked for simple ways to make learning easier for students. So he created the Rota Hebræa , a representation of the Hebrew conjugation in the form of two rotating discs that are placed on top of each other and make the respective shapes appear in windows. To study the Hebrew language, he created the Horologium Hebræum , the Hebrew clock, a textbook of Hebrew in 24 chapters, each of which could be learned in one hour. This book was Schickard's most famous book and was reprinted again and again until 1731. In 1627 he wrote a textbook for learning Hebrew in German, the Hebrew Funnel .

Original drawing by Wilhelm Schickard
Replica of the calculating machine by Wilhelm Schickard

In addition to teaching Hebrew, he also studied astronomy. In 1623 he invented an astroscopium , a cone made of paper, inside of which the starry sky was depicted. He developed u. a. a theory of the lunar orbit , which provided the most precise ephemeris of its time. He was the first to determine meteor orbits from simultaneous observations from different locations. His graphic methods for calculating eclipses and for calculations in the Copernican system were widely used.

Schickard was a talented mechanic and often built his own instruments - which is why Kepler called him a two-handed philosopher in a letter . In 1623 he built the first calculating machine (which he called calculating clock ) to make astronomical calculations easier. The machine was capable of adding and subtracting up to six-digit numbers, and signaled a "memory overflow" by ringing a bell. In order to enable more complex calculations (multiplication, division), Napier's arithmetic rods (also called Nepersche rods) in the form of cylinders - similar to the later calculation boxes by Caspar Schott - were attached, which were used to support the further calculation steps on the adding machine. The construction was lost by the 20th century, and a working replica was not made until 1960. References to the machine, including drawings by Schickard, were found in the estate of Kepler (Schickard promised Kepler a copy that was destroyed by fire) and in the estate of Schickard himself. Schickard knew Napier's writings and was himself an early representative of the use of logarithms.

From 1624 he began to re- measure the country on his travels through Württemberg as a school supervisor for the Latin schools . So that others could support him, he wrote an instruction in 1629 on how to make artificial land boards. He used the method of geodetic triangulation, which Willebrord Snell had invented a few years earlier .

In 1631 the astronomy professor Michael Mästlin died and Schickard was appointed as his successor. From then on he gave the astronomical lectures. One of his most important works concerned the theory of the motion of the moon. To calculate the lunar orbit, he published the Ephemeris Lunaris in 1631 , with which one could graphically determine the moon position in the sky at any point in time. He was a staunch supporter of the heliocentric system and invented the first hand-held planetarium to represent it , which is shown in his portrait from 1631. In addition to Kepler, he corresponded with astronomers and scientists such as Ismael Boulliau and Pierre Gassendi .

After the battle of Nördlingen in 1634, the imperial troops also occupied Tübingen, and with them came the plague . In the autumn of 1634, Schickard's mother first died of abuse by soldiers, then his wife and three daughters died of the plague, leaving only his nine-year-old son. Schickard, who fell ill with the plague himself at the turn of the year and recovered, managed to come to terms with the occupying forces. On behalf of Count Gronsfeld , who was interested in his mathematical and even more in his geodetic work, he carried out measurements in the Stuttgart – Herrenberg – Tübingen and Sinzheim – Bruchsal – Pforzheim area from February to July 1635. He fell ill again in mid-October, died on October 23, 1635 and was buried the following day, his son the next day. His neighbor and godfather of his children, Thomas Lansius , kept the estate tied up in his cellar for several years until Schickard's brother Lucas could take it over.


The lunar crater Schickard was named on his lunar map by Giovanni Riccioli as early as 1651 .

Replica of the hand planetarium by Wilhelm Schickard

The sketch of the calculating machine shown here can be found in Schickard's sketchbook in the Württemberg State Library in Stuttgart. The machine was reconstructed by the Tübingen logician Bruno von Freytag-Löringhoff in 1957. Reconstructed copies can be viewed in the Tübingen city museum , in the computer museum of the Wilhelm Schickard Institute for Computer Science in Tübingen and in the Arithmeum in Bonn . The mechanism of his calculating machine can also be tried out in the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum (computer museum ) in Paderborn. The Wilhelm Schickard Institute for Computer Science named after him is located at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen .

Willhelm Schickard is the namesake of the Wilhelm Schickard School in Tübingen (commercial vocational school) and is one of the namesake of the Schickhardt Gymnasium in Herrenberg, which opened in 1962 .

In 1989, the Research Society for Watch and Precision Engineering, founded in 1955, was established in the Hahn-Schickard Society for Applied Research in honor of Wilhelm Schickard and Philipp Matthäus Hahn . V. (HSG) renamed.

In the Technologiepark Karlsruhe there has been a Wilhelm-Schickard-Straße since 1993.


  • Comet description , handwriting, Nürtingen 1619 ( WLB )
  • Hebrew Wheel , 1621; Rota Hebræa, pro facilitate conjugandi pridem inventa, sculpta et explicata , Eberhard Welper, Strasbourg 1630 ( MDZ ); Andreas Oehl, Leipzig 1636 ( Google Books , MDZ ); 1659
  • Horologium Hebræum , Dietrich Werlin, Tübingen 1623; Michael Wachsmann, Leipzig 1625 ( Google Books ); 1626 ( Google Books ); Andreas Oehl, Leipzig 1633 ( MDZ ); 1636 ( MDZ ); Johann Georg Cotta, Tübingen 1670 ( MDZ ); 1682 ( Google Books )
  • Astroscopium , Dietrich Werlin, Tübingen 1623; Rudolph Kautt, Stuttgart 1646 ( Google Books , ULB Saxony-Anhalt ); Friedrich Schultes, Nördlingen and Georg Wildeisen, Ulm 1655; 1659 ( GDZ ); Johann Herbort Kloß, Stuttgart and Leipzig 1698 ( Google Books , MDZ )
  • בחינת הפירושיםBechinath Happeruschim , Johann Alexander Cellius' widow, Tübingen 1624 ( Google Books , ditto , ditto , MDZ )
  • Liechtkugel, with instructions from the recently published Wunderliecht , Johann Alexander Cellius' Widow, Tübingen 1624 ( SLUB )
  • משפט המלךJus regium Hebræorum e tenebris rabbinicis erutum & luci donatum , Lazarus Zetzner, Strasbourg 1625 ( Google Books , ditto , ditto , MDZ ); Friedrich Lanckisch, Leipzig 1674 ( Google Books , MDZ )
  • The Hebraic Trächter , Tübingen 1627; The Hebrew funnel, easy to pour the language into , Gottfried Gross, Leipzig 1629 ( UB Frankfurt / Main ; named for Harsdörffer's Nuremberg funnel )
  • Tarich he Series Regum Persiæ , Dietrich Werlin, Tübingen 1628 ( MDZ )
  • Brief instruction on how to make artificial land panels for the right reason , Stephan Michelspacher, 1629 ( dilibri ); Johann Georg Cotta, Tübingen 1669 ( Google Books , MDZ , ditto , SLUB )
  • Description of the miracle of Zaichen , Dietrich Werlin, Tübingen 1630 ( UB Tübingen , WDB )
  • Anemographia seu discursus philosophicus de ventis , Tübingen 1631
  • Ephemeris Lunaris , 1631
  • Basic report of the Zwo ROten Neben-Sonnen , Stephan Michelspacher, 1633 ( University Library Tübingen )
  • Purim sive Bacchanalia Judæorum , Dietrich Werlin, Tübingen 1634


  • Epistolæ W. Schickarti & M. Berneggeri mutuæ , Josias Städel, Strasbourg 1673 (Latin; deleting passages that could cause offense; Google Books , MDZ )
  • Friedrich Seck (Ed.): Correspondence , 2 volumes (Volume 1: 1616–1632 , Volume 2: 1633–1635 ), Frommann-Holzboog, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 2002, ISBN 3-7728-2162-6 (Latin-German)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Antonin Rükl: Moon, Mars, Venus , p.198. Dausien-Verlag, Hanau 1977
  2. ^ Kepler to Peter Krüger (an astronomer in Danzig), February 28, 1624, Philosophus amphidexios
  3. Found by Max Caspar 1935, there is also a letter from Schickard to Kepler dated February 25, 1624. There are also references in a letter from Schickard to Kepler dated September 20, 1623 with a description of the machine. The sketches became known through Franz Hammer , who presented them in 1957 at a conference at the Mathematical Research Institute in Oberwolfach . See The Rechenuhr of Wilhelm Schickard .
  4. ^ Württembergische Landesbibliothek , Stuttgart, also found by Hammer. Sketch by Schickard with instructions to the Tübingen mechanic Wilhelm Pfister. Pictured here on the left.
  5. ^ Friedrich Seck: On the 400th birthday of Wilhelm Schickard: Second Tübingen Schickard Symposion, June 25-27, 1992, Volume 41 of Contubernium / Contubernium, 1995, p. 299.
  6. Eckart Roloff : Divine flashes of inspiration. Pastors and priests as inventors and discoverers , Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2012, ISBN 978-3-527-32864-2 , p. 151
  7. http://ka.stadtwiki.net/Wilhelm-Schickard-Straße


  • Zacharias Schäffer (Ed.): Wilhelmi Schickardi, Linguarum Orientalium, & Matheseos In Academia Tubingensi Professoris Celeberrimi, Superiori mense Novembri Denati, Memoria, & Eulogium , Philibert Brunn, Tübingen 1636 (Latin; obituaries; HAB )
  • Vita B. Authoris in Johann Christoph Speidel: Nova & plenior grammatica hebraica , Cotta, Tübingen 1731 (Latin; biography with list of scriptures; MDZ )
  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing : From the Schickard-Marchtaler Tarich Beni Adam , Chapter 3 in On History and Literature. From the treasures of the ducal library in Wolfenbüttel. First contribution , Braunschweig 1773, pp. 83-102
  • Christian Friedrich Schnurrer : Schickard in Biographical and literary messages from former teachers of Hebrew literature in Tübingen , Wohlerische Buchhandlung, Ulm 1792, pp. 160–225 (with annotated list of publications and addendum to Tarich and Lessing; letters to and from Schickard on p. 249 –274)
  • Jean Labouderie : Schickard (Guillaume) in Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne (Volume 41), LG Michaud, Paris 1825, pp. 124–130 (French)
  • JC Poggendorff : Schickard, Wilhelm in biographical-literary concise dictionary . Second volume. M – Z , Johann Ambrosius Barth, Leipzig 1856–1863, Sp. 794–795
  • Siegmund GüntherSchickard: Wilhelm S. In: General German Biography (ADB). Volume 31, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1890, p. 174 f.
  • Wilbur Applebaum: Schickard, Wilhelm . In: Charles Coulston Gillispie (Ed.): Dictionary of Scientific Biography . tape 12 : Ibn Rushd - Jean-Servais Stas . Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1975, p. 162-163 .
  • Friedrich Seck (Ed.): Wilhelm Schickard. 1592-1635. Astronomer, geographer, orientalist, inventor of the calculating machine , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1978, ISBN 3-16-939772-9 ; Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden, ISBN 3-515-08003-1 (Contubernium 25 series)
  • Friedrich Seck (ed.): History of science around Wilhelm Schickard , JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1981, ISBN 3-16-444151-7 ; Franz Steiner, Wiesbaden, ISBN 3-515-08004-X (partly in English; Contubernium 26 series)
  • Friedrich Seck (Ed.): On the 400th birthday of Wilhelm Schickard. Second Tübingen Schickard Symposium , Jan Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1995, ISBN 3-7995-3235-8 (partly in English; Contubernium 41 series; table of contents , PDF file, 280 kB)
  • Friedrich Seck:  Wilhelm Schickard. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-428-11203-2 , p. 727 ( digitized version ).
  • Bruno von Freytag-Löringhoff The first calculating machine , Physikalische Blätter, Volume 14, 1958, pp. 361-365 online
  • Bruno von Freytag-Löringhoff Wilhelm Schickard's Tübingen calculating machine from 1623 (edited by Friedrich Seck), 3rd edition, Kulturamt, Tübingen 2002, ISBN 3-910090-48-6
  • Friedrich Seck: Wilhelm Schickard - origin and career. In: Ulrich Köpf , Sönke Lorenz, Dieter R. Bauer: The University of Tübingen between the Reformation and the Thirty Years War (= Tübingen building blocks for regional history. Volume 14). Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2010, ISBN 978-3-7995-5514-2 , pp. 347-386.
  • Friedrich Naumann: Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635) - a Philosophus amphidexios. In: Visor and arithmetic books of the early modern times. Writings of the Adam-Ries-Bund Annaberg-Buchholz, Vol. 19 (2008), pp. 121-140. ISBN 978-3-930430-78-9 .

Web links

Commons : Wilhelm Schickard  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
  1. C. Speidel in the edition of the Hebrew grammar by Schickard in 1731 and Christian Schnurrer's book on teachers of Hebrew literature in Tübingen from 1792 are named as standard biographies