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Haak, Theodore

1. Dates
Born: Neuhausen, near Worms, 25 July 1605
Died: London, early May 1690 He was buried on 8 May.
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 85
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official
Theodore Haak, a graduate of Heidelberg, held some sort of administrative post in the government of the Palatinate, in Neuhausen. Through his wife, the daughter of a prominent Huguenot theologian, David Toussaint, who was much in favor in the Palatinate, Haak père was related to counsellors of the Elector Palatinate as well as to an extensive circle of leading reformed theologians.
There is no explicit information about the family finances, but there is quite a bit of indirect information--first, the connections above, and second, our Haak's ability to live in adequate comfort, moving about Europe, without ever holding any permanent remunerative employment. I do not see how to avoid the conclusion that the family was, at the least, prosperous.
3. Nationality
Birth: German
Career: English
Death: English
4. Education
Schooling: Oxford, Cambridge, Leiden
Oxford University and Cambridge University, 1625-6.
Oxford University, Gloucester Hall (the Calvinist center in Oxford), 1628-31, without taking a degree.
In 1638 he matriculated in Leiden. Since he moved permanently to England later that year, he cannot have studied there long, and there is no mention of a degree.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist
His family in all directions were firm Calvinists. In the English Civil War he sided with and served the Puritan cause (not militarily).
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Scientific Communication, Scientific Organization
There is no evidence of independent scientific work by Haak. He was an active correspondent who functioned as a link, first between Hartlib's circle and the so-called Invisible College and the continent (primarily Mersenne), later between the Royal Society and the continent.
He was one of the men in the Invisible College, and Wallis stated that Haak was the one who proposed the meetings.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Personal Means, Government
Secondary: Church Life, Patronage, Publishing
Barnett, the only serious source on his life, is convinced that his style of life, an independent gentleman and amateur of learning without any regular gainful source of living, is inconceivable apart from personal means.
Already in the late 20s Haak did his first translation, of an English devotional work into German. (It had six editions during the century.) He did another translation in the early 30s, which was published first in 1643. In 1645 he began the translation of The Dutch Annotations upon the Whole Bible, ultimately published in 1657. I gather that this was a translation into English of the Dutch translation of the Bible together with the extensive Dutch annotations. Haak was encouraged to undertake this work by the Westminster Assembly. As far as I can make out his remunderation was to be sole rights to the printing the sale of the book for fourteen years (from the date of publication) granted to him by Parliament. Barnett says nothing about the sales, but I am assuming that he made some money out of this, though I doubt that he did from other publications.
Ordained deacon in London, 1632. He never took full orders and never held a benefice. He did work for the London Dutch church, on collections for clergy of the Palatinate displaced by the Thirty Years War, 1632-4. For this he received a small salary.
He returned to the Palatinate in 1634, but was quickly forced to flee again. By 1638 he was back in England, which now became his permanent home. He was naturalized ultimately in 1657.
In 1643-4 he was sent by Parliament on a diplomatic mission to Denmark.
Employed episodically as a translator by the Westminister Assembly, and Parliamentary government, 1645-52.
Parliament granted him a pension of £100 a year, 1649. He had great trouble in ever collecting any of it. Perhaps this could be called patronage. However, Haak never sought out this employment and accepted it only from a sense of duty. He had language skills which the Parliament sorely needed to tap. I call it governmental employment rather than patronage.
In 1648 he declined an offer to be secretary to Karl Ludwig, Elector Palatine, when the Peace of Westphalia restored him. However, Haak did function as his unofficial agent in London, sending information. This is a classic patronage relationship, and this I do count as such.
Translator to the Secretary of State, John Thurloe, 1652-7, receiving fairly regular payments. Apparently Haak refused two offers of diplomatic posts on the continent.
After the Restoration, Haak did some miscellaneous translation, both from and into English. I found no evidence that he earned any income from this. He translated about half of Milton's Paradise Lose into German. It was not published, but his manuscript was plagiarized for the first translation that was published, in 1682.
8. Patronage
Type: Court Official
I indicated above that I will not list the English connections as patronage. His relation to the court of the Elector Palatine does seem to be such, though rather tenuous. Note especially Haak's refusal of the proferred appointment in Heidelberg by the Elector, as well as his refusal of appointments offered in England. He preferred his quiet.
Haak dedicated the Dutch Bible Annotations to Cromwell. However, Cromwell apparently rather despised Haak, and Haak detested Cromwell. Whatever the motives behind the dedication, I am unable to count it as patronage.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Chemistry
Haak invented a phosphorous-burning lamp, touted to supply light and heat without the need for bellows, in the 1680s. I feel that I need to list this, though I am highly uneasy with the category, and also with the device. None of the information about Haak, apart from this lamp, indicates involvement in chemistry, and I doubt that the lamp worked.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
He was part of the Commenian circle that formed around Hartlib in the late 30s. It included Dury and Pell; he remained in close touch with Pell until Pell's death. Intensive correspondence with Mersenne on behalf of the Hartlib circle, 1639-40. In 1647-8, until Mersenne's death, Haak revived this correspondence on behalf of the Invisible College.
According to John Wallis, Haak first suggested the London meetings in 1645.
In the Royal Society Haak continued his earlier function as a link with the continent. He was active in the promotion and maintenance of correspondence with scientists, especially in Germany. He proposed a considerable number of visiting Germans for membership of the Royal Society.
His extensive correspondence with Pell survives.
Intimate friendship with Hooke, after 1670s.
Translated letters between Hooke and Leibniz, about 1680.
Royal Society, 1661-96. He became a fellow upon the nomination of John Wilkins. Member of the Council, 1677.
  1. Pamela R. Barnett, "Theodore Haak and the Early Years of the Royal Society," Annals of Science, 13 (1957), 205-18.
  2. _____, Theodore Haak, F.R.S., (1605-1690), (Den Haag, 1962). This is the authoritative source on Haak.
  3. R.H. Syfret, "The Origins of the Royal Society," Notes and Records of the Royal Society, 5 (1948), 75-137.
  4. Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-1950), 8, 855. Dorothy Stimson, "Hartlib, Haak, and Oldenburg, Intelligencers," Isis, 31 (1940), 309-26.
  5. Anthony à Wood, Athenae oxonienses (Fasti oxonienses is attached, with separate pagination, to the Athenae), 4 vols. (London, 1813-20), 4, 278-80.
  6. Neue deutsche Biographie (Berlin, 1952- ), 7, 368-9.
  7. Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, 10, 257.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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