Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (born July 1, 1742 in Ober-Ramstadt, Germany, died February 24, 1799 in Göttingen, Germany) was a German physicist, aphorist, philosopher and satirical writer.

Lichtenberg was born at Ober-Ramstadt, near Darmstadt, on 1 July 1742. In 1763 he entered Göttingen University, where in 1769 he became extraordinary professor of physics, and six years later ordinary professor. He held this post till his death on 24 Februarz 1799. As a physicist he is best known for his investigations in electricity, or more precisely for the so-called Lichtenberg figures, which are fully described in two memoirs Super nova methodo naturam ac motum fluidi electrici investigandi (Göttingen, 1777-1778).

As a satirist and humorist, Lichtenberg takes high rank among the German writers of the 18th century. His biting wit involved him in many controversies with well-known contemporaries, such as the Swiss physiognomist Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801) whose science of physiognomy he ridiculed, and Johann Heinrich Voss, whose views on Greek pronunciation called forth a powerful satire, Über die Pronunciation der Schöpse des alten Griechenlandes (1782).

In 1769 and again in 1774 he resided for some time in England and his Briefe aus England (1776-1778), with admirable descriptions of Garrick's acting, are the most attractive of his writings. He contributed to the Göttinger Taschen Calender from 1778 onwards, and to the Göttingisches Magazin der Wissenschaften und Litteratur, which he edited for three years (1780-1782) with J. G. A. Forster. He also published in 1794-1799 an Ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche in which he described the satirical details in William Hogarth's prints.

Selected works

  • Georg Christoph LichtenbergWikimedia Commons has more media related to:
  • Georg Christoph LichtenbergBriefe aus England, 1776-78
  • Über Physiognomik, wider die Physiognomen, 1778
  • Göttingisches Magazin der Wissenschaften und Litteratur, 1780-85 (ed. by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg and Georg Forster)
  • Über die Pronunciation der Schöpse des alten Griechenlandes, 1782
  • Ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche, 1794-1799
  • Schriften und Briefe, 1968-72 (4 vols., ed. by Wolfgang Promies)
  • The World of Hogarth. Lichtenberg's Commentaries on Hogarth's Engravings, 1966 (trans. by Innes and Gustav Herdan)
  • Hogarth on High Life. The Marriage à la Mode Series, from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg's Commentaries, 1970 (trans. and ed. by Arthur S. Wensinger with W. B. Coley)
  • Aphorisms, 1990 (trans. with an introduction and notes by R. J. Hollingdale)


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