Letter 424b

424b. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi to Schelling in Munich: Munich, August 1807 [*]

Munich, August 1807

I will take care of securing the apparatus. [1] It would also be easier to attract more interested people were the chosen time not precisely the time when most are either on their way to eat or are already eating. Scheduling the experiments from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. would probably be most convenient for the majority of attendees. —

It will in any case definitely be necessary to send an announcement around. But how can one regulate each person’s contribution either at the outset or afterward? If you could come see me tomorrow morning for a few minutes, we could consider these things together. —

Perhaps someone will pay me a visit today who is more experienced in such things and can offer some good advice. Franz Baader may well also be the man for that. Things must and will in any case be fine.


Please be so kind as to do a preliminary draft of the announcement to be sent out. [2]


[*] Source: Fuhrmans 3:450–51. Dating conjectured. Back.

[1] Johann Wilhelm Ritter was to do a presentation of the Campetti experiments before the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities on 19 August 1807, and apparently some thought was being given to offering a demonstration for the broader public ([1] Jean Baptiste de Poilly, Reception d’un Academicien [ca. 1725]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 2086; [2] nineteenth-century illustration of experiment with “human magnetism” from H. S. Drayton, Human Magnetism: Its Nature, Psysiology and Psychology [New York 1889], 82):



Ritter himself had since 1804 been a member of the Academy’s section for mathematics and physics. See the supplementary appendix on Caroline and Schelling’s interest in Francesco Campetti; also Schelling’s letter to Hegel on 11 January 1807 (letter 420a) and Caroline’s letter to Luise Wiedemann on 31 January 1807 (letter 421) with cross references. Back.

[2] See the official Academy report of this meeting in Geschichte der Akademie [der Wissenschaften in München] vom Jul. 1807 bis Ende 1808 (Munich 1809), xliii–xlv, which unfortunately says little about the demonstration itself but much about the later frustration with Ritter’s handling of the affair:

During the meeting on 19 August 1807, Professor Ritter introduced to the Academy Francesco Campetti, a young farmer from Gargnano on the western shore of Lake Garda in the Kingdom of Italy, and read a detailed historical essay to the effect that his correspondents in physics first brought to his attention to the unusual and enhanced sensibility of this subject to hidden metal and water.

Ritter then turned to the royal administration; with its support, he departed on his journey to Italy, thereafter bringing Campetti himself back here, where he tried to demonstrate the truth of these claims through a series of experiments. He introduced this Campetti to the Royal Academy of Sciences and Humanities in order to confirm the facts of this man’s enhanced sensibilities, thereafter petitioning the Academy to appoint a commission.

Such was indeed appointed, consisting of the scholars Imhof, Güthe, and Sömmerring. — Let us add here the narrative of what transpired in the meeting of 9 March 1808 and later in this matter. —

The essays Herr Ritter read aloud afterward in several meetings of this commission enumerated the conditions under which he would be willing to conduct the experiments with Campetti before the commission itself. These conditions were largely such that the commission and Academy were not really in a position to assess them. The Academy reported such to the highest quarters in an expert opinion from the presiding members.

A royal response was issued on 19 February 1808 to the effect “that Herr Ritter was to present to the Academy a thorough, complete, and comprehensive report concerning all the experiments conducted with Campetti and their results; the Academy would then be empowered to send that report to several academies elsewhere, especially to the institutes in Paris and Milan, to solicit their opinions in the matter and ascertain the extent to which they find it appropriate to assign to this phenomenon that particular lofty status within the context of physical phenomena that Herr Ritter ascribes to it.” —

Herr Ritter has hitherto not yet presented this report. Insofar as Campetti had remained here as long as Herr Ritter thought necessary in order to conduct the various experiments with him and compose a report on the results, and insofar as Campetti began to feel sickly and to yearn for his home, he departed for Italy in the month of June 1808. —

The anticipated report on these experiments — experiments which, though made possible through the financial support in part directly from the royal administration and in part later from Academy funds are to be viewed as Herr Ritter’s private [i.e., not official or sanctioned] investigations — will immediately, upon its reception by the Academy, be passed along to other academies and learned societies, as well as to the public. Back.

Translation © 2018 Doug Stott