Lavater, Johann Caspar

BORN 15 Nov 1741, Zürich - DIED 2 Jan 1801, Zürich
GRAVE LOCATION Zürich: St. Peter

Johann Kaspar Lavater took Holy Orders in 1769 and worked as a Protestant deacon and a pastor in his native Zürich. In 1769 he sent "Palingenesie philosophique" by Charles Bonnet to Moses Mendelssohn. He wanted Mendelssohn to refute Bonnet's arguments or convert to Christianity. Mendelssohn refused to do either. Lichtenberg and Herder supported Mendelssohn during the argument.

Lavater's writings were popular. He tried to recognize psychological traits from physical characteristics and his "Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beförderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe" (1775-1778) was read in Germany, France and England. He was also interested in magnetic trance experiments and was well known as a poet.

From 1774 onwards he and Goethe were friends and Goethe visited him in Zürich in 1775. But later Goethe accused him of hypocrisy and superstition. Over the years his influence waned. In 1799 he tried to appease the French invaders, but he was shot. After more than a year of suffering he died in Februari 1801.

Related persons
• was a friend of Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von


The house where Goethe visited Lavater in Zürich at the Obere Zäune 11.
Picture by Androom (18 Aug 2005)


Johann Caspar Lavater's gravesite at the St. Peter church in Zürich.
Picture by Androom (19 Aug 2005)


• Reeth, Adelaïde van & Guido Peeters, Herinneringen in Steen, De Haan/Unieboek, Houten, 1988
Johann Kaspar Lavater - Wikipedia

Lavater-Sloman, Mary

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 16 Jan 2022