Johann Caspar Lavater

Life

1741 Birth of Johann Caspar Lavater, twelfth child of Johann Heinrich Lavater and Regula Escher vom Glas, in "Zum Waldries" House in Zurich.
1746-1754 Student at the Deutsche Schule and the Lateinschule in Zurich.
1754-1756 Collegium Humanitatis
1756-1762 Studies in Philosophy, Philology and Theology at the Collegium Carolinum (the forerunner of the University of Zurich, which was founded in 1833). Lavater's teachers include Johann Jacob Bodmer and Johann Jacob Breitinger. From 1762, Lavater's name figures as Verbi Divini Minister on the List of Exspektanten, a list of candidates for appointment to office as Church Ministers.
1762 Lavater and Johann Heinrich Füssli draw official attention to the abuses of office committed by Felix Grebel, the Landvogt of Grüningen. Grebel is subsequently sentenced and expelled. However, his plaintiffs have to offer their apologies to the city fathers for their unlawful procedure.
1763-1764 Lavater and Füssli leave for Germany on an educational trip with Felix Hess, their college friend from Zurich, after the so-called "Grebelhandel". Johann Georg Sulzer, a Swiss philosopher teaching in Berlin, accompanies them as far as Berlin, acting as their mentor and tutor. Afterwards, they spend an extended period of study in Barth, in Swedish Pomerania, with Johann Joachim Spalding, the enlightened reform theologian.
1764-1768 Lavater and Salomon Hirzel found the "Moral Society" in Zurich in 1764/1765; from 1765 onwards, Lavater is a member of the “"Helvetic Society" in Schinznach and from 1767 he starts writing Schweizerlieder in dem Tone der Gesellschaft zu Schinznach.
1765The Auserlesene Psalmen Davids are published.
Lavater is the co-founder and author of the moral weekly periodical Der Erinnerer, which is closed down in 1767 upon pressure from the Zurich government.
1766 On 3rd June, Lavater marries Anna Schinz, one year his junior. They have eight children together, only three of whom, however, survive childhood.
1768-1773/78Lavater's reputation spreads beyond the Swiss border upon publication of the Aussichten in die Ewigkeit.
1769 On 7th April 1769, Lavater is made Deacon (2nd Minister) of Oetenbach Church (an orphanage church).
1771-1773 Publication of Lavater's Geheimes Tagebuch. Von einem Beobachter seiner Selbst (1771), the Unveränderte Fragmente aus dem Tagebuche eines Beobachters seiner Selbst (1773) and Von der Physiognomik (1772).
1772/1773 see the beginning of the friendship with Herder and Goethe. Lavater first meets Goethe in person in Frankfurt in 1774.
1775-1778 Composition of the four volumes of Physiognomische Fragmente, zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntniß und Menschenliebe.
On 14th March 1775, the Church Council appoints Lavater Senior Minister of the Parish of the Orphanage Church. Three years later, on 7th April 1778, Lavater becomes Deacon of St Peter's, one of the Zurich City Churches.
1782-1786Composition of Pontius Pilatus (1782-1785), Jesus Messias (1782-1786) and Nathanaél oder die ebenso gewisse, als unerweisliche Göttlichkeit des Christentums (1786). In addition, a wealth of poems, sermons, songs, tracts and writings as well as numerous theological treatises are published in Lavater's lifetime.
1786Lavater is offered a chair as a preacher in Bremen. He does not accept the chair, but visits the city. In the same year, he is appointed Senior Minister of the parish of St Peter's Church.
1798-1799Upon the invasion of Zurich by the French, Lavater writes Ein Wort eines freyen Schweizers an die französische Nation and addresses a critical letter to Das helvetische Vollziehungs-Direktorium. Lavater is arrested and deported to Basel. Upon his return to Zurich, he is too badly wounded by a bullet in an incident with a drunken French soldier to be able to recover completely again.
1801After nearly two years of suffering, Lavater dies in Zurich on 2nd January.

Author: Ursula Caflisch-Schnetzler; Translation: Hania Bociek