Biographical and bibliographical

notes on Ernst Kapp

1808 Ernst was born in Ludwigstadt (Oberfranken, Germany) on October the 15th. He was the youngest of twelve children. His father died when he was six years old. His brother Friedrich Kapp (1792 - 1866) took care of his education

1824 - 1828 He studied philology University Bonn. At that time a usual training for becoming a master at a gymnasium. Philology then was about interpreting Greek and Latin texts.

diplom.jpg (33024 bytes)

Certificate of enrolment of Ernst Kapp 1825

1828 - 1830 Master at the gymnasium in Hamm, where his brother Friedrich was principal (1823 - 1852).

1830 Ph.D. in history. De re navali Atheniensium is about Athenian hegemony between 900 and 400 b.Chr. This hegemony is explained by the power and way of financing the Athenian fleet.

1830 - 1849 Professor at the gymnasium at Minden. Kapp's Leitfaden beim ersten Schulunterricht in der Geschichte und Geographie (1833 - Instruction for the first training in history and geography) was innovating and often reprinted until 1870. Kapp described how humanity in the appropiation of the Earth was educated and on its way to perfection. Kapp proofed himself to be a student of Karl Ritter (1779 - 1859) and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831). His Philosophische oder vergleichende Erdkunde (1845 - Philosophical or comparative geography) showed how humanity at different times and places was conditioned by its natural environment. Kapp assumed e.g. that the Chinese, hierarchical culture was to be explained by its closed natural conditions. Europe in the contrary was open minded because of its open seas. This also was a natural cause for European dominance. In his early publications Kapp had a keen eye on the many economical and technological developments in western society.

During his stay in Minden Kapp became politically engaged. This was almost inevitable at hat time, because poverty and political repression were common in Germany (Prussia) - as in many other European countries - in the first half of the 19th century. Kapp was a democratic federalist and therefore suspicious in the eyes of the ruling class. In 1848 he was sent on sick-leave (after being imprisoned?), in 1849 forced to retire. His Der constituirte Despotismus und die constitutionelle Freiheit (1849 - Constituted despotism and constitutional freedom) would have caused him a lot of trouble, if it were not that he (1849) and his family (1850) emigrated to Texas (USA). Kapp argued for an organic conception of the state in which all ranks would have their influence. Just before his emigration Kapp also finished a book about the hydrotherapist Rausse (published in 1850a).

On the 16th December 1833 Kapp was married to Ida Cappel ( 1808 - 1891). The couple had five children: Lisette Amalie Emilie Antonie (1835), Alfred Franz Friedrich Gustav (1836), Julie Emma Johanna Amalie (1840), Hedwig Elisabeth Ida (1843) and Johann Georg Wolfgang (1846).

1849 - 1867 In Texas the family Kapp lived a farming life. They builded their own housing, brought under cultivation their land, tended their cattle and learned to forge and use farming tools. According to Ernst Kapp they lived like Gods (1850b). Together with other emigrated German intellectuals Kapp founded the Lateinische Kolonie (Latin colony). In this association they cultivated their intellectual orientations on education, literature, science, philosophy and a healthy way of living (e.g. Kapp builded a hydrotherapeutic facility).

During the Civil War (1861 - 1865) they were on the side of the abolitionists. Ernst Kapp was president of the Bund freier Männer (Association of free men) and together with his compatriots he therefore had a bad time in the south of the U.S.A. They were e.g. forced to sell their mouthpiece as was the San Antonio Zeitung.

1867 - 1896 In 1867 Ernst, Ida en Hedwig Kapp returned to Germany for a family visit. Although the Kapps were determined to return to the States, they settled down in Düsseldorf (Nord-Rhein Westfalen). Kapp's health condition did not allow him to return.Travelling conditions on a sailing ship were too aggravating these days (storms, calmnes, no fresh food and water). Kapp settled down as a Privatdozent (private master).

Until his death he published a reprint of his 1845 book as Vergleichende allgemeine Erdkunde in wissenschftlicher Darstellung (1868 - Comparative general geography in scientific perspective), some book reviews (1870 - 1877b - 1881) and his Grundlinien einer Philosophie der Technik (1877 - Basics for a philosophy of techniques).

1896 Ernst Kapp died January the 30th.

1978 Though late, the importance of Ernst Kapp for his contribution to the philosophy of technology was acknowlegded by a memorial tablet on his former residence in Düsseldorf.

biogr1.jpg (16113 bytes)

1994 - 1995 There was no trace of the work and life of Ernst Kapp on the great exhibition about industrial history of the Ruhrgebiet: Feuer & Flamme. 200 Jahre Ruhrgebiet . (Fire and Flame: 200 years Ruhrgebiet) (Oberhausen) The acknowlegdement of Ernst Kapp still needs some attention.


Ernst Kapp - Introduction / An analysis of the Grundlinien / A romantic philosophy of technology / A philosopher of the Industrial Society  / Some literature on Ernst Kapp / About the author