European Scholar

BONITZ, Hermann

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  • Date of Birth: 1814-07-29
  • Born City: Langensalza
  • Born State/Country: Prussian Saxony
  • Parents: Meg. Carl Friedrich B. & wife.
  • Date of Death: 1888-07-25
  • Death City: Berlin
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Married: Bertha Marie Semmel, 1843
  • Education:

    Study at Leipzig and Berlin.

  • Professional Experience:

    Teacher, Blochmann-Institut, Dresden, 1836-8; Überlehrer, Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium, Berlin, 1838-40; Graues-Kloster Gymnasium, Berlin, 1840-2; prof. Gymnasium at Stettin (Szczecin), 1842-9; prof. classical philology, Vienna, 1849-67; member, Imperial Academy of Sciences, 1854; Council on Education, 1864; director, Graues-Kloster Gymnasium, 1867-88.   

  • Publications:

    Commentarius in libros metaphysicos Aristotelis (Berlin, 1827)Disputationes Platonicae Duae (Dresden, 1837);Observationes Criticae in Aristotelis Libros Metaphysicos (Berlin, 1842)Observationes Criticae in Aristotelis quae feruntur Magna Moralia et Ethica Eudemia (Stattin, 1844)Alexandri Aphrodisiensis Commentarius in Libros Metaphysicos Aristotelis (Berlin1847)Aristotelis Metaphysica (Bonn1848–1849; repr. Hildesheim, 1960)Beiträge zur Erklärung des Thukydides (Vienna, 1854), des Sophokles (1856–57); Emendationes Horatiis (Vienna, 1858)Über die Kategorien des Aristotelis, Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften Phil.-Histor. Klasse 10 (1853) 591-645 (repr. Darmstadt, 1967); Beiträge zur Erklärung des Sophokles I (Vienna, 1856); II (Vienna, 1857); Spicilegium criticum philologis et paedagogis Germaniae die XXV m. sept. a. [1858] Vindobonae conventvm agentibvs (Vienna, 1858); Platonische Studien (Vienna,1860; 3rd ed., 1886; repr. Hildesheim 1968); Aristotelische Studien (Vienna, 1862–1867; repr. Hildesheim, 1969); Index Aristotelicus with the assistance of Jürgen Meyer & B. Langkavel (1870; repr. Berlin, 1960); Zur Erklärung des Platonischen Dialogs Phaedrus (Berlin 1874) Über den Ursprung der homerischen Gedichte Vortrag, gehalten im Ständehause zu Wien am 3. März 1860 (Vienna, 1860; 5th ed., 1881; Eng. trans., New York: Harper & Bros., 1880).

  • Notes:

    Wilamowitz points out proudly that Herman Bonitz was educated at the famous Schulpforte, the alma mater of Gottfried Hermann, Nietzsche, Dissen, Nauck and many others, including Wilamowitz himself, who attended the school after the death of its famous headmaster, Karl D. Ilgen (1763-1834), editor of the Homeric Hymns and Batrachomyomachia (1796)Bonitz’s experience of the education he received at Pforte was formative for the remainder of his career as were his education at Leiden, where he studied under Gottfried Hermann (1772-1848) and the Kantian Gustav Hartenstein (1808-90). When he moved to Berlin where he heard the lectures of August Böckh (1785-1867) and Karl Lachmann (1793-1851). 

    Bonitz determined on a scholarly career but was also dedicated to the reform of secondary education in Germany that was supported by Friedrich Wilhelm III. He spent two years at each of three institutions supported by the king. He joined the staff of Karl Justus Blochmann’s (1786-1855) new (founded 1824) Institute in Dresden. Blochmann had opened the school with a royal warrant after being frustrated in his attempts to implement new Swiss theories of education which stressed among other things the teaching of modern languages and science in addition to the traditional classical curriculum. The development of new teachers was a key part of Blochman’s program. 

    In Berlin the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium, so named in 1811 after gifts from the king on its 50th anniversary, was tripling the size of its student body between 1820 and 1841 and the Gymnasium (in a building given by the king) needed first-class teachers, Bonitz spent two years there before moving to the first and oldest (1574) German gymnasium, at Grauen Kloster, a 13th-century monastery named for the grey robes of the monks, converted into a school. In 1819 Friedrich Wilhelm III also gave a gymnasium building to this school.   He spent eight years in the gymnasium of the thriving port city of Stettin implementing his pedagocial ideas. 

    When he was invited to Vienna in 1849, the appointment was based on his scholarship, but also an attempt to impose reforms on the Austrian schools & universities. In 1854 Bonitz, still influenced by the precepts of Blochmann and the examples of the progressive schools he had taught in recommended with his colleagues Emanuel Hoffman and Gustav Linker, a curriculum that put natural science on a par with classics in the curriculum.  He wrote many articles inZeitschrift für die östereichischen Gymnasien. As a teacher he gave well-attended lectures on his beloved Plato and Aristotle but also on the origin of the Homeric poems, Sophocles, and Greek antiquities and made himself readily available for the needs of his students.  

    During his stint at the Blochmann-Institut he produced important and original works on Plato, beginning with De Platonis idea boni (1837) De anima mundanae apud Platonem elementis (1837) in which he argued against the notion that Plato was entirely consistent in his ideas throughout his career. During his time at Graues Kloster, he completed his edition of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and at Stettin he edited the Magna Moralia and the Eudemian Ethics, followed by his edition of Alexander of Aphrodisias on the Metaphysics along with his own commentary.

    In Vienna, his work on Aristotle was only slightly hindered by his official duties. He wrote on Aristotle’s Categories (1853) and Aristotle (1862-7) and began work on his magisterial Index Aristotelis. He also returned to Plato in his Platonic Studies of 1858-60, a work that placed Bonitz above Schleiermacher in the eyes of Wilamowitz. His reading of Thucydides (1854) found favor with accepted into Krüger’s second edition. His approach to Sophocles (1856-7) restricted the degree of “tragic irony” elaborated by Friedrich Schneidewin (1810-46) saw tragic irony in Sophocles. In 1858 Bonitz published his views on the text of Horace.

    After 1866 when Austria came into conflict with Prussia, Bonitz left Austria and returned to Germany to become director of the Grauen Kloster, where after 1882 he became influential in modernizing the Prussian school curriculum. There he also completed his invaluable and massive Index Aristotelicus while continuing to publish on Plato  

    Although in one instance Sandys calls him only an “able Aristotelian,” the range of his textual and interpretive work leads Sandys elsewhere to call him “undoubtedly one of the greatest scholars of his age. He was in fact the perfect master of that province of classical learning, which includes Greek philology and Greek philosophy.”

  • Sources:

    T. Gomperz, BJA, 1890; Sandys, 3:174-5; Wilamowitz, 114, 149.

  • Author: Ward Briggs