All Scholars

HEIBERG, Johan Ludwig

  • Image
  • Date of Birth: November 27, 1854
  • Born City: Copenhagen
  • Born State/Country: Denmark
  • Parents: Laege Emil Theodor, an Aalborg physician, & Johanne Henrietta Jacoba Schmidt H.
  • Date of Death: January 04, 1928
  • Death City: Copenhagen
  • Death State/Country: Denmark
  • Married: Cathrine Asmussen, 1879
  • Education:

    Ph.D., Copenhagen, 1879.

  • Dissertation:

    "Quaestiones Archimedeae. Inest de arenae numero libellus" (Copenhagen, 1879).

  • Professional Experience:

    Instructor, Aalborg Katedralkskole (intermittently), 1876-1928; Bestyrer (Director) of the Borgerdydskole, Østerbro, 1884-95; prof. Copenhagen, 1896-1924; Rector, 1915-16; member, Danish Academy of Sciences (Danske Videnskabemes Selskab), from 1883; editor (Redaktor), 1902-13.

  • Publications:

    Archimedis Opera omnia cum commentariis Eutocii. 3 vols. (Leipzig, 1880-1881; 2d ed., 1910-1915); Literargeschichtliche Studien üiber Euklid (Leipzig, 1882); Euclidis Opera Omnia, vols. 1-5, 7, 8.2 (Leipzig, 1883-8, 1895, 1916); Apollonii Pergaei quae Grae.ce exstant cum commentariis antiquis, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1891-3); Aphorismer om Hippokrates (Copenhagen, 1892 = Studier fra Sprog og Oldtidsforskning 7); Codex Leidensis 399, 1. Euclidis Elementa ex interpretatione Al-Hadschaschadschii cum commentariis Al-Narizii, with R. O. Besthorn, 3 vols. (Copenhagen, 1893-1911); Simplicii in Aristotelis de caelo commentaria (Berlin, 1894 = Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca 7); Eros, en culturhistorisk Skitse (Copenhagen, 1894 = Studier fra Sprog og Oldtidsforskning 19); Attiske gravmaeler (Copenhagen, 1895); Sereni Antinoensis Opuscula (Leipzig, 1896); Beiträge zur Geschichte Georg Valias und seiner Bibliothek = Centralblatt für Bibliothekwesen. Beiheft 6.16 (1896); Claudii Ptolemaei Opera quae exstant omnia. 1: Syntaxis mathematica (Leipzig, 1898, 1903); 2: Opera Astronomica Minora (Leipzig, 1907); Søren Kierkegaards samlede Værker, with A. B. Drachmann and H. O. Lange, 14 vols. (Copenhagen, 1901-1906; 2d ed. [15 vols.], 1920-1936); Anonymer Kommentar zu Platons Theaetet nebst frei BruchstUchen philosophischen Inhalts, ed. H. Diels and W. Schubart in cooperation with Heiberg (Berlin, 1905 = Berliner Klassikertexte 2); Italien, Spredte Studier og Rejseskritser(Copenhagen, 1904. In part as 2d ed. = Fra Helas og Italien. Copenhagen, 1929); Eine neue Schrift des Archimedes, with H. G. Zeuthen (Leipzig, 1907. Cf. T. L. Heath. The Method of Archimedes Recently Discovered by Heiberg. A Supplement to the Work of Archimedes 1897 (Cambridge, 1912; reprinted New York, 1953); Græske Læsestykker, with A. B. Drachmann (Copenhagen, 1912; 2d ed. with Hans Raeder and Drachmann, 1927); Pauli Aeginetae libri tertii interpretatio Latina antiqua (Leipzig, 1912); Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik im klassischen Altertum (Leipzig, 1912; reprinted 1920 = Aus Natur und Geisteswelt 370. English translation by D. C. Macgregor as Mathematical and Physical Sciences in Classical Antiquity. Oxford, 1922); Den heliiage PorphyriosBishop af Gaza. Et Tidsbillede Fra Hendnsabets sidste Dage (Copenhagen, 1912; reprinted 1922 = Religionshistoriske smaa-shriffer. Series l, vol. 9. 1912); Heronis Alexandrini Opera 4: Heronis definitiones cum variis collectionibus. Heronis quae Feruntur geometrica (Leipzig, 1912, 5: Heronis quae Feruntur stereometrica et de mensuris(Leipzig, 1914); Paul Tannery: Memoires scientifiques, with H. G. Zeuther, 8 vols. (Toulouse and Paris, 1912-27); Paulus Aegineta, 2 vols. (Leipzig and Berlin, 1921 = Corpus Medicorum Graecorum vol. 9, fasc. 1-2); Glossae medicinales(Copenhagen, 1924 = Corpus Medicorum Graecorum vol. 9, fasc. 1. (1924)); Catalogue des manuscrits Alchimiques Grecs,with J. Bides, F. Cumont and O. Lagercoante, 3 vols. (Brussels, 1924, 1927, 1924); Geschichte der Mathematik und Naturwissenschaten in Altertum (Munich, 1925 = Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft vol. 5, fasc. 1, pt. 2); Et Christent Verdensbillede (Copenhagen, 1926 = Studier fra Sprog og Oldtidsforskning 138. (On Cosmos Indicopleistas.)); Hippocratis Opera. 1.1 (Leipzig and Berlin, 1927 = Corpus Medicorum Graecorum vol. 1, fasc. 1); Mathematici Graeci Minores(Copenhagen, 1927 = Dansk Videnskabernes Selskab. Historisk-Filologiske Meddelelser 13.3 (1927)); Theodosius Tripolites Sphaerica (Berlin, 1927 = Abh. Geswiss. Gött., Phil.-Hist. Klasse. n.s. 193 (1927)); Fra Hellas og Stalien. Udvalgte Afhandlinger, ed. A. B. Drachmann, Casten Høeg and E. Spang-Hanssen, 2 vols. (Copenhagen, 1929); 

    Anonymi logica et quadrivium, cum scholiis antiquis (Copenhagen, 1929 = Dansk Videnskabernes Selskab. Historisk-Filologiske Meddelelser 15.1).

    Articles (Collected)

    J. L. Heibergs Samlede Skrifter. 22 vols. (Vols. 1-11: Prose Writings; Vols. 12-22 Poetic Writings) (Copenhagen, 1833-62).

    Articles (Selected)

    “Einige von Archimedes vorausgesetate elementare Satze,” Zeitschrift für Mathetatik und Physik, Hist.-Lit Abt. 24 (1879) 177-182; “Die Kentnisse des Archimedes über die Kegelschnitte.” ZMP 25 (1880) 41-67; “Philologische Studien zu griechischen Mathematikem. I. Ueber Eutokios. II. Ueber die Restitution der Zwei Bücher des Archimedes περὶ σφαίρας καὶ κυλίνδρου,“ Neue Jahrbiicher fur classische Philologie Suppl. 11 (1880) 355-99; “Die Archimedes handschrift Georg Valls,” Philologus 42 (1883) 421-37; “Archimedis περὶ ὀχουμένων Graece restituit.” Melanges Graux (Paris, 1884) 689-709; “Die Arabische Tradition der Elemente Euclids,” ZMP 29 (1884) 1-22;

    “Ein Palimpsest der Elemente Euklids,” Philologus 44 (1885) 353-66; “Johan Nicolai Madvig, geb. den 7. August 1804, gest. den 12. December 1886,” Biog 9 (1886) 202-21; “Om Scholiene til Euklids Elementer. Avec un resume en Framjais.” Dansk

    Videnskabemes Selskab, Skrifter. Historisk og Philosofiske Afdeeling. Series 6, vol. 2.3 (1888) 227-304; "Neue Studien zu Archimedes.” ZMP 34, Suppl. = Abh. Gesch. d. math. Wiss. 5 (1890) 1-84; “Beitrage zur Geschichte der Mathematik in Mittelalter.” ZMP 35 (1890) 41-58, 81-100; “Ptolemaus de Analemmate,” ZMP 40, Suppl. = Abh. Gesch. d. math. Wiss. 7 (1895) 1-30; “Die Uberlieferung der griechischen Mathematik.” Vorhandlungen der 43. Versammlung deutscher Philologen ond Schulmanner in Koln 1895 (Leipzig, 1895) 27-34; “Graeshe Vaser,” with drawings by Joakin Skorgaard, Kunstblakt (1898) 337-53; “De locis nonnullis Ranarum Fabula Aristophanis adnotatiunculae,” Nordisk Tidsskrift for Filologi. Series 3, vol. 7 (1898-1899) 60-67; “Bidrag til Belysning af Herodots religeuse Standpunkt,” Festskrift til J. L. Ussing (Copenhagen, 1900: 91-109 = Fra Hellas ogltalien 1:341-56); “Quelques papyrus traitant de mathématiques,” Oversigt over det kgl. Danske Videnskabemes Selskabs Forhandlinger (1900) 147-71; “Anatolius sur les dix premiers nombres.” Annuaire International d’Histoire, Congrès de Paris 1900, 5e section (Paris 1901) 27-57; “Paralipomena zu Euklid,” Hermes 38 (1903) 46-74, 161-201, 321-56; “Antik Polemik mod Kristendommen.” Det ny Aarhundert 1.2 (1903-1904) 84-102; “Mathematisches zu Aristoteles.” Abh. Gesch. math. Wiss. 18 (1904) 1-49; “Die handchriftliche Grundlage der Schrift ΠΕΡΙ ΑΕΡΩΝ ΥΔΑΤΩΝ ΤΟΠΩΝ,” Hermes 39 (1904) 133-45; “Mathematik, Mechanik und Astronomie.” Die Altertumswissenschaft im letzten viertel-jahrhundert. Eine Übersicht über ihre Entwicklung in der Zeit von 1875-1900, in Verein mit meheren Fachgenossen, ed. Wilhelm Kroll (Leipzig, 1905) 129-43; “Graesh Kultur,” Verdenskulturen. No. 2, ed. Aage Fris (Copenhagen, 1905-1906) 127-300; “Et par Punkter af den byzantinske Kunsts Historie,” Tidsskrift for Filologi. Series 3, vol. 16 (1907-1908) 1-20; “Bemaerkninger til Aristophanes’ ‘Fuglene’,” Nordisk Tidsskritt for Filologi, series 3, vol. 16 (1907-1908) 1-20; “Eine neue Archimedeshandschrift.” Hermes 42 (1907) 235-303; “Einige griechischen Aufgaben der unbestimmten Analytik,” with H. G. Zeuthen, Bibliotheca Mathematica. Series 3, vol. 8 (1908) 118-34; “Exakte Wissenschaften und Medizin.” Einleitung in die Altertumswissenschaft, ed. A. Gercke & E. Norden, vol. 2 (Leipzig & Berlin, 1910: 391-432; 2d ed., 1912: 385-425; 3rd ed., 1922: 315-57); “Eine mittelalterliche Übersetzung der Syntaxis des Ptolemaios,” Hermes 45 (1910) 57-66 and “Noch einmal die mittelalterliche Ptolemaios-ubersetz ung,” Hermes 46 (1911) 207-16; “Exegetische Bemerkungen,” Hermes 46 (1911) 458-63 (Ad. Paus. 5.10.4, 11.6, Plutarch Solon.); “De codicibus Pauli Aeginetae observationes,” REG 32 (1919) 268-77; “Bemaerkinger om Josephus,” Historisk Tidsskrift, series 9, vol. 2 (1921) 281-306; “Les sciences grecques et leur transmission,” Scientia 31 (1922) 1-10, 97-104; “Geisteskrankheiten im klassischen Altertum.” Allg. Zeitschr. f. Psychologie 88 (1927); reprinted as Geisteskrankheiten im klassischen Altertum (Berlin, 1927).

  • Notes:

    Johan Ludvig Heiberg, confused by the ignorant with his more famous playwright-critic namesake (1791-1860), obscured by the better-known studies of his teachers J.N. Madvig (1804-86) and J.L. Ussing (1820-1905),  his friend and fellow student A. B. Drachmann (1860-1935) and his colleagues Carl Hude (1860-1936), Hans Henning Raeder (1869-1959) and (in the next generation) Frederick Poulsen (1876-1950) probably deserves to be remembered as the greatest of the Danish scholars of the golden age of classical studies. (Madvig, who overtops him, belongs properly to the previous generation.) Dyed in science rather than fatally tainted with literature, Heiberg chose to study the Greek mathematicians and doctors—a field neglected (to our detriment) by modem scientists and classicists alike. This choice and the fact that well over half his articles and books were in Danish have hindered his fame.

    Heiberg was named after the most popular playwright of his parents’ teen years (and occasionally called “J. L. II”). He drew an interest in pharmaceutics from his physician father and for the philosopher Kierkegaard, whom he later edited, from his mother. Heiberg was awakened to the charms of Greek and mathematics in the Aalborg Katedralkskole. At age seventeen, he went to the Kopenhagen University, where his teachers were Siesbye, Ussing, and, most importantly, Madvig. From Ussing he learned archaeology and art history, on which he often wrote (but only in Danish and on post-classical times). He was Madvig’s last and perhaps best student, to whom he remained always loyal (he was asked to write the necrology in Bursian’s Jahresbericht) and saw himself first as a philologist (as is clear from his editions of Archimedes, Apollonius, Euclid, and so forth). Important for Heiberg’s development in graduate school was the Greek study-circle gathered by the archaeologist Christian Jørgensen. In 1875 he began his reading of Archimedes and four years later (1879) he took his doctorate with a dissertation, Quaestiones Archimedeae, on the man who held his interest for the rest of his life. He traveled to Italy for the first time in the same year (to examine manuscripts of Archimedes), a land to which he was to return more often than to his beloved Greece. At this time, he also married Cathrine Asmussen, two years his junior (1856-1929), by whom he had a daughter, Cathrine.

    His postgraduate career began in Copenhagen private schools, though he had supported himself since 1876 as an instructor and continued to take part in instruction at his old school until his death. From 1884 (the year after his mother’s death) till

    • he was Bestyrer(Director) of the Borgerdydskolein 0sterbro (founded 1787). In
    • he was called back to the University, where he was a professor for a mathematically “perfect” twenty-eight years (retiring at seventy). He was a member of the Danish Academy of Sciences (Danske Videnskabemes Selskab) from 1883 and its editor (Redaktpr) from 1902 to 1913. In 1915-1916 he was Rector of the University.

    The works for which he is best known are his editions of the Greek mathematicians and scientists, for which he had been well prepared by his schooling, by Madvig, and by his contacts in graduate school with the mathematicians H. G. Zeuthen (1839-1920) and Ludwig Oppermann (1817-83). As he began his work on Euclid, he wrote in Philologus 44 (1884) 322:

    And the philologist also has here (that is, in the field of the history of Greek and Roman mathematics) a task to perform which he ought not to shirk. He must establish and clean the text with the utmost certainty and so correctly lay the foundation-stones for the historian of mathematics. And he need not feel himself to be the mathematician's handworker, for he is pursuing thereby his own scholarly goals and much appears to him in a different light and of another meaning than to the mathematician. The latter understands and evaluates Greek and Roman mathematics as steps in the progress of science; philology is concerned with its place in the intellectual history of antiquity.

    And great was the work to be done: of editions then available, only Friedrich Hultsch’s Pappos (1876-9) was any good; for Apollonius one had to depend on Edmund Halley’s (1656-1742) 1710 edition, for others on even earlier or worse editions. It was his lot to recover more Greek texts of importance than any other philologist of his era (? Analemma, Euclid Optics,Archimedes Floating—known only in late versions or translations, and Archimedes Method—not known at all). All of these editions are today the standard texts of the authors: his work is unsurpassed.

    The first of these editions was his Archimedes in three volumes (1880-1881), later superseded by the second edition (1900-1915), which incorporated the newly discovered Method. Here he shows himself a Madvigian in his zeal to examine every manuscript (which he did) and to establish the exact history of the text from antiquity through the manuscripts he used. Moreover, unlike some editors who give only a “translation” of the MS figures (i.e., only redrawn figures), Heiberg was wise (and Madvigian) enough to give the MS figures themselves. Next came Euclid’s Elements, including scholia and Theon’s recension, in five volumes (1883-1888), and later the Optics (1895; completed in 1890); much later the Euclidean fragments appeared, with other Euclideana by Heinrich Menge (1838-1904). In the interval Heiberg had completed his edition of Apollonius (of those books, the first four extant in Greek) with fragments and Eutocius’ commentary (1890-1893). Hermann Diels (1848-1922) convinced Heiberg to undertake the editing of Simplicius’ De Caelo, which appeared in the Commentaria in Aristotelem Graecain 1894.

    All this before he was called back to Copenhagen. Already in 1895 Heiberg had turned to Ptolemy (the palimpsest ofAnalemma; from his university chair he produced editions of the Syntaxis (“Al-magest”) and the Opera Astronomica Minora (1898; 1903; 1907); for the first time he did not provide a Latin translation. When Wilhelm Schmidt (1817-1901) died leaving the Heron edition an opus imperfectum, Heiberg saw his duty and completed the last two (of five) volumes (1912, 1914). During this time, he also found and restored to the world Archimedes’ Ephodos (1907ff.) and brought out only his second edition of a Greek text, Archimedes (1910-1915). The last ten years of his university professorship, perhaps originally distracted by his Rektorat, were marked by a lower productivity—the works are mainly Danish or popular save the edition of the historian of mathematics P. Tannery’s (1843-1904) works (1912-1927). The survey of Greek science which he wrote at this time (1912) is probably his most widely read book, and the English translation is still used in history of science courses.

    Late in life he turned back to his mathematicians (e.g., Theodosius, 1927) and to medicine and alchemy. In fact, the first impulse for the Corpus Medicorum Graecorum came from Heiberg, according to Diels, and in any case volume 1, part 1 appears over Heiberg’s name (1927). He had long ago written on Hippocrates (1904) and then in 1921 and 1924 (also in the Corpus Medicorum Graecorum) had appeared Heiberg’s edition of Paul of Aegineta (who may be called the last scientist of antiquity). In alchemy he contributed to the important Catalogue des manuscrits AIchimiques Grecs (1924, 1927).

    He was not, however, only a historian of science and editor of Greek scientists; he also wrote (though always in Danish) on art history and made numerous trips to Italy for the purpose. He contributed occasional notes (derived from his wide reading of Greek literature) on various texts, especially Aristophanes and Herodotus, two of his favorites. He edited, with H. O. Lange (1863-1943) and his friend and commilitone A. B. Drachmann, the works of the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in fourteen volumes (1901-1906), with a second edition (cp. Archimedes), which he did not live to see completed (1920-1936). Hansen lists over 140 items of contributions to Danish scholarship by Heiberg (exceeded only by the archaeologist and art historian Friedrich Poulsen, with nearly 175). Heiberg thus outstrips in sheer numbers his teachers Madvig (ca. 125) and Ussing (ca. 85) as well as his colleagues Carl Hude (ca. 100), who wrote on Thucydides and Herodotus, Hans Henning Raeder (ca. 125), who wrote on Plato, and A. B. Drachmann (ca. 60). His virtue was to work on Greek mathematics and medicine where textual criticism was needed more than ideas (not his strong suit, according to Høeg). The virtue of the better-known Danes was to work on authors every schoolboy pretends to have read—and who has chosen the better life?

    His love for things Greek went to the edge of monomania, according to a colleague at his seventieth birthday party, yet he could say that the Roman aqueducts were a better measure of the true greatness of Rome than all of Roman literature. He saw it as his duty to transmit the cultural values of the Greek intelligentsia and to present the cultural inheritance of Greece. This he did, primarily in Danish, in a long series of short, readable monographs beginning in 1891 (for example Eros, en culturhistorisk Skitse[1894]), many of which were collected in Fra Hellas og Italien (1929). His own views were rationalistic (he rejected as un-Greek all mysticism), and he stated:

    That we can create an existence worthy of a man on the foundation that Socrates has laid, he himself has shown by his life and death. He has once and for all pointed the way for all those who wish to lead their life without supernatural assistance.

    (I cite the text of Junge who claims these are his “eigenen worte”; Høeg quotes a similar passage but has made a number of verbal changes [wir uns . . . schaffen konnen aufgebaut werden kann, Dasein Leben, Sterben durch seinen Tod, Fiihren leben, for examples] which seem unlikely to be his. Høeg says nothing about “eigenen worte.” Heiberg would not approve.)

    He was an embittered, even fanatical, anti-Christian (some of his monographs are directed against Christianity). For him rhetoric was a “Pestilenz,” aesthetics were distant, and he was not open to the more refined art (despite his studies of postclassical art!). In the wide expanse of Greek literature he sought a field where naught but iron endurance and cool fact entered: thus his interest in Greek mathematics and medicine for their observation of reality and mistrust of speculative philosophy. I would add that only where we can control the results of Greek thought with our own knowledge (mathematics and physical science) can we understand the processes of Greek thought. He loved Greek symmetry and self-control and the dry humor of Aristophanes.

    His personal life was complicated by a decades-long and never consummated Platonic love affair with the wife of his friend Drachmann, who allowed it (as recollected by Drachmann’s younger son; see Calder and Meyer). He and Drachmann were close friends of Wilamowitz (1848-1931). Heiberg was completely unaffected and free of all vanity—he spoke German, Italian, and even French with the same Danish accent. He rarely raised his soft and-muffled voice, even in his Rektoratrede. He was a passionate smoker, he rejected the telephone, and he preferred kerosene lamps to electric. In spite of his quirks, all who were familiar with him felt strongly that he was a powerful and pure personality. He gave to the world scientific texts of the Greek scientists (and of Kierkegaard), which then as now are standard; he advanced Altertumsu/issenschaft in the land that gave us the designations Stone, Bronze, and Iron Age by his writing and his work at the University (influenced by Wilamowitz) and he was a scientific humanist in the best sense.

  • Sources:

    Ada Adler, “Heiberg, Johan Ludvig.” Dansk Biografisk Leksikon 9 (1936) 560-7; H. Arnim, “Johan Ludvig Heiberg. Ein Nachouf.” Almanach der Akademie der Wissenschaften im Wien 78 (1928) 264-73; Peter Allen Hansen, Bibliography of Danish Contrbutions to Classical Scholarship from the Sixteenth Century to 1970. Danish Humanist Texts and Studies 1 (Copenhagen, 1977); O. Harrassowitz, Bibliothek J. L. Heiberg und andere Bestttnde, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1929 = Bücher-Katalog: 423-424); Carsten Høeg, “Johan Ludvig Heiberg. Geboren 27. November 1854, gestorben 4. Januar 1928.” Jahresbericht über die Fortschritte der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, 233.4 (1931) 38-77; Gustav Junge, “Johann [sic] Ludvig [sic] Heiberg,” Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung. 38 (1929) 17-23; Jurgen Mejer, “Wilamowitz and Scandinavia: Friendship and Scholarship,” Wilamowitz nach 50 Jahren, ed. W. M. Calder III, et. al. (Darmstadt, 1985) 513-37; J. C. Poggendorff‘s Biographisch-Literarisches Handwörterbuch. 3 (Leipzig, 1898) 604; 4 (Leipzig, 1903) 605; 5 (Leipzig, 1926) 512-3; 6 (Leipzig, 1937) 1063. 

    Bibliography

    E. Spang-Hanssen, Filologen J. L. Heiberg, 2d ed. (Copenhagen, 1969).

  • Author: Paul T. Keyser