[Index of Biographies]

Georg David Kypke (1724-1779)

[This is a draft of an article in The Dictionary of Eighteenth Century German Philosophers, 3 vols., edited by Manfred Kuehn and Heiner Klemme (London/New York: Continuum, 2010).]

Georg David Kypke was born on 23 October 1724 in Neukirchen (Pomerania) and died on 28 May 1779 in Königsberg.  He was the son of a pastor and nephew to the philosophy professor Johann David Kypke.  He was an Old Testament scholar, a gifted linguist, an early translator of John Locke into German, and a friend and colleague of Immanuel Kant’s.

Kypke attended the Collegium Fridericianum [more] in Königsberg the same years as Kant, but left for the university a semester sooner (at Easter 1740; he matriculated on 15 April 1738, but likely did not begin classes then).  As a student, he publicly defended (under the Pietist physicist Teske [bio]) an essay on the incomprehensibility of God by a finite intellect (2 July 1743).  He later transferred to Halle, where he developed a great love for English while studying under Siegmund Jacob Baumgarten [bio], and with whom he translated various historical and biographical works into German.  He received the magister degree from Halle on 14 March 1744.

Kypke returned to Königsberg in 1746 with an appointment as associate professor of oriental languages (May 14), giving his inaugural address on Hebrew script (August 19).  He was promoted to full professor of oriental languages in 1755, as well as inspector of the Königsberg synagogue, which involved attending all the worship services.  It was in this capacity that he entered a dispute with the local Jewish community over their recitation of the Alenu prayer, a certain passage of which had been proscribed by Friedrich I as defamatory towards Christianity.  Kypke complained to the government that this prayer was being uttered too quietly for him to ascertain the absence of the offending passage.  Moses Mendelssohn [bio] came to the defense of the community, noting that the prayer pre-dated Christianity, and thus could not be referring to it.  Over Kypke’s objections the matter was laid to rest, and the office of inspector was eventually abolished (edict of 6 July 1778).

When Kant returned to Königsberg in late 1754 to begin his career as a lecturer, he rented a room from Kypke (the records are ambiguous, and some believe he lodged with Kypke’s uncle) [more] and he gave his lectures in Kypke’s auditorium, before moving to new quarters in the early 1760's.

Kypke also taught English at Königsberg, occasionally lecturing in English, and he translated a selection from Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Hartung, 1755).  Johann Gottfried Herder [bio] attended Kypke's lectures, as did Gottlieb Schlegel [bio], who praised his teaching.  Kypke never married, and through his frugality was able to leave a considerable estate to support students: newly reclaimed property across the river from the university was purchased, and in 1797 was built the so-called Kypkeanum, providing inexpensive lodging for thirteen students as well as lodging and a salaried position to a young professor serving as the overseer.  In his later years, Kypke was better known for his vegetable garden, than for his scholarly efforts.


Observationes sacrae in Novi Foederis libros ex auctoribus potissimum Graecis et antiquitatibus (Breslau: J. J. Korn, 1755).

(translator), Johann Lockens Anleitung des menschlichen Verstandes zur Erkäntness der Wahrheit; nebst deselben Abhandlung von den Wunderwerken (Königsberg: J. H. Hartung, 1755).  Reprinted in: Locke in Germany: early German translations of John Locke, 1709-61, selected and introduced by Konstantin Pollok (Bristol: Thoemmes Continuum, 2004), vol. 1.

Other Relevant Works

Dissertatio philologica recensionem ms. libri rabbinici exhibens (Königsberg, 1746).

(translator and editor), Die Hebräische und Chaldäische Grammatik des berühmten D. Johann Andreas Danzens, ins Deutsche übersetzt und mit häufigen Anmerkungen erläutert (Breslau: J. J. Korn, 1752).

Vocabularium Hebraicum in Genesin secundum capitum ordinem digestum et in usum iuventutis tam scholasticae quam academicae editum (Königsberg, 1754).

(with Danies), Vocabularium in Novi Foederis libros (Königsberg, 1758).

Ausführliche Anfangsgründe der hebräischen Grammatik, ehemals nach Dansischen Lehrsätzen entworfen von J. J. Rau, jetzt verbessert von Kypke (Königsberg, 1780).

Further Reading

APB, vol. 1, p. 377 (Vanselow).

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Ausführliche und mit Urkunden versehene Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1746), vol. 2, p. 426.

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1756), pp. 64, 76-77.

Arnoldt, Daniel Heinrich, Fortgesetzte Zusätze zu seiner Historie der Königsbergischen Universität (Königsberg, 1769), p. 49.

Gause, Fritz, Die Geschichte der Stadt Königsberg in Preussen, 2nd enlarged ed., 3 vols. (Köln, 1996), vol. 2, pp. 118, 151, 229.

Goldbeck, Johann Friedrich, Litterarische Nachrichten von Preußen, 2 vols. (Berlin, Leipzig, Dessau: 1781-83), vol. 1, pp. 214-16.

Goldbeck, Johann Friedrich, Nachrichten von der Königlichen Universität zu Königsberg in Preußen, und den daselbst befindlichen Lehr- Schul- und Erzeihungsanstalten (Dessau, 1782), p. 139.

Jöcher/Adelung (1810), vol. 3, col. 997.

Kuehn, Manfred, Kant: A Biography (Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 110-11, 149, 216-17.

Meusel (1808), vol. 7, pp. 437-38.

Pisanski, Georg Christoph, Entwurf einer preussischen Literargeschichte in vier Bucher, ed. by Rudolf Philippi (Königsberg, 1886), pp. 636-39.

Schlegel, Gottlieb, Summe von Erfahrungen und Beobachtungen zur Beförderung der Studien in den gelehrten Schulen und auf den Universitäten, 2nd ed. (Riga und Königsberg: Gottlieb Leberecht Hartung, 1790), p. 223.

Stark, Werner, “Hinweise zu Kants Kollegen vor 1770.”  In: Reinhard Brandt and Werner Euler, eds., Studien zur Entwicklung preußischer Universitäten, in collaboration with Werner Stark (Wiesbaden, 1999), pp. 113-62.

Wendland, Walter, Ludwig Ernst von Borowski, Erzbischof der evangelischen Kirche in Preussen (Königsberg: Ferdinand Beyers, 1910), pp. 29-30.

[Index of Biographies]

Copyright ©2006 Steve Naragon (Manchester University)
Last modified: 11 Jul 2010
Please send comments and questions to: ssnaragon@manchester.edu