« Bascom, John Basedow, Johann Bernhard Basel, Bishopric of »

Basedow, Johann Bernhard

BASEDOW, bɑ̄´ze-dō´´ (BASSEDAU), JOHANN BERNHARD: German rationalist and innovator in educational methods; b. at Hamburg Sept. 11, 1723; d. at Magdeburg July 25, 1790. After a wilful boyhood he studied theology at Leipsic (1744-46), but followed his studies in very irregular fashion and hampered by poverty; he was tutor to a noble family of Holstein 1749-53; became teacher at the academy of Sorö, Denmark, in 1753, and at the gymnasium of Altona in 1761; he was forced to retire from both of these positions because of his unorthodox views freely and offensively expressed in various publications (Praktische Philosophie für alle Stände, Copenhagen, 1758; Philalethie: neue Aussichten in die Wahrheiten und Religion der Vernunft, 2 vols., Altona, 1763-64; Theoretisches System der gesunden Vernunft, 1765; Grundriss der Religion welche durch Nachdenken und Bibelforschen erkannt wird, 1764). After 1767 he abandoned theology for education. Influenced by Rousseau’s Émile, he sought to devise a system that should be according to nature and dispense with the exercise of authority on the part of the teacher and with the necessity for work on that of the pupil. His views are set forth in his Vorstellung an Menschenfreunde und vermögende Männer über Schulen, Studien, und ihren Einfluss in die öffentliche Wohlfahrt, mit einem Plane eines Elementarbuches der menschlichen Erkenntniss (Hamburg, 1768; new ed., Leipsic, 1894) and his Elementarwerk (4 vols., 1774). He had remarkable success in enlisting sympathy and gaining patrons, and in 1774 was able to open an institution for the realization of his ideas, the “Philanthropin" at Dessau (described in Das in Dessau errichtete Philanthropinum, Leipsic, 1774). After four years he retired, having shown himself, by loose management and personal bad habits, utterly unfitted for the position. He spent the rest of his life in literary work and private teaching. His writings on theological and educational subjects number more than sixty; the former are crude and coarse, and grossly rationalistic; the latter ill-considered and impracticable, although some of his ideas as developed by others have been productive of good. He was well characterized by Goethe as a man who undertook to educate the world, but himself had no education at all.

Bibliography: ADB, ii, 113-124 (by his great-grandson, Max Müller); R. Diestelmann, J. B. Basedow, Leipsic, 1897.

« Bascom, John Basedow, Johann Bernhard Basel, Bishopric of »
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