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Lang, Karl Nikolaus

1. Dates
Born: Lucerne, 18 Feb 1670
Died: Lucerne, 2 May 1741
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 71
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown, Cleric
His father was Johann Jacob Lang (b. 1643; occupation unknown), but he was reared for the first few years of his life by his uncle, the theologian Nikolaus Lang (1640-93), minister at Ettiswil and then at Willislau.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Lucerne, Switzerland
Career: Italy, France, Lucerne, Switzerland
Death: Lucerne, Switzerland
4. Education
Schooling: Friburg, Lucerne, Bologna; Sapienza (Rome), M.D.
1680-86, Jesuit gymnasium in Lucerne.
1686-7, University of Freibourg (Friburg?). B.A. 1687.
1688, listed at the University of Lucerne under students of metaphysics.
He then studied medicine in Bologna and Rome, where he received an M.D. in 1692. 1692, studied speculative theology (and probably practical medicine) at the University at Fribourg en Brisgau.
5. Religion
Affiliation: I assume Catholic from his education.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Paleontology, Natural History
Subordinate: Medicine
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine, Government
1692, after receiving his medical degree, he practiced in Roman hospitals while continuing to study anatomy, surgery, botany, and chemistry.
After 1694, but before 1698, he practiced medicine similarly in Paris for a time.
In 1698, he returned to Lucerne, where he was chosen as physician to the Buerklinsche Regiment of the Vier-Waldstaette (1698). In 1699, he was named physikus ordinarius for Waldshut. And in 1701, he was appointed by the Abbot Augustin as the physician for the cloister of St. Blasius (in the Black Forest). He received honoraria for all of these positions, and it appears that he occupied them simultaneously.
1709, he he was elected physikus ordeinarius for Lucerne. It is not clear that he received support for this position.
8. Patronage
Types: Aristrocrat, Physician, City Magistrate
His primary patron was Franziskus Honorius, Count of Trautmannsdorf and extraordinary ambassador in Baden. Lang treated him early in his career, and Trautmannsdorf sent him specimens for his collection from Baden, among other favors.
Other patient/patrons include Count Arconatus, who called Lang to Milan to attend to his illenss, and Margrave Viscontius.
Franz Bossinger, the Emperor's personal physician, and Puis Nicolaus Garellus, personal physician to Archduke Karl, arranged Lang's appointment as personal physician to Archduchess Marie Anna, later Queen of Portugal.
The city council of Lucerne (I assume this means the Canons) appointed him Grossrat (great councillor), and named him prefect of Knutwil.
The Tractatus de origine lapidum figuratorum in quo diffuse dissenteur . . . (1709) is dedicated to the Prussian Academy, though I do not know whether this was before or after his membership.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
In addition to practicing medicine for his entire career, he was called upon by certain organizations to prepare reports on water quality. In 1720, with Mauriz Kappeler, he was appointed to investigate the springs at Schachenwald, Hackenrain, and Doggeli-Loecher. This report still exists. In addition, he was commissioned by the government of Uri to investigate Gades Unterschaechen and the privately owned spring at Suessberg.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Academia Leopoldina, Berlin Academy, Institute Bologna
John Woodward sucessfully opposed his membership in the Royal Society.
1703, member of the Academia Physico-Criticorum, Siena.
1705, member of the Academia Caesareo-Leopoldina Naturae Curiosorum.
Member of the Prussian Academy.
Member of the Academia Scientiarum, Bologna.
Connections: He was a good friend of the Frenchbotanist Joseph Pitton.
  1. Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale, (Paris, 1857-66), 29, 381-2.
  2. Hans Bachmann, "Karl Nikolaus Lang, Dr. Phil. et Med. 1670-1741," Geschichtsfreund, 51 (1896), 167-280.
  3. Note: Patsy A. Gerstner's article in the D.S.B. contains almost no biographical details at all.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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