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Maier, Michael

1. Dates
Born: Rensburg, Holstein, ca. 1568
Died: Magdeburg, 1622 (Note: This is misprinted as 1662 in the D.S.B.)
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 54
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official
The D.S.B. says that he was probably the son of Johann Maier, an offical of the Duchy of Holstein. The Neue deutsche Biographie, on the other hand, says his father was Petrus Meier (d. < 1590), a gold embroiderer in the service of Heinrich Rantzaus, Danish governor of Schleswig-Holstein.
A relation of his mother's, Severin Goebel, a well-known physician of Gdansk and Koenigsberg, financed his studies.
No solid information on parents' financial status, although the information about his education seems to suggest that they were less than affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: Rensburg, Holstein, Germany
Career: Germany
Death: Magdeburg, Germany
4. Education
Schooling: Rostock; Padua; Franfurtan Order, M.A.; Bologna; Basel, M.D.; PhD
He studied first either in Rensburg or Kiel.
1587, University of Rostock.
1589, he was in Nuremberg.
1589-1591, he was in Padua with Goebel's son. (The Neue deutsche Biographie has him in Padua in 1595).
1592, University of Frankfurt a. d. Oder. He received an M.A.
1596, University of Bologna.
1596, University of Basel, where he received an M.D.
It is not known where he got his Ph.D.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Alchemy
7. Means of Support
Primary: Medicine
Secondary: Schoolmastering, Patronage
I presume his trip to Padua with Goebel's son (1589-1591) was in the capacity of tutor/companion.
1590, he started practicing surgery without an academic degree (which doesn't seem surprising to me).
Sometime between 1592-1596, he worked at Koenigsberg under the supervision of Severin Goebel.
It seems that before 1600 he was a courtier of Rudolf II and a writer in the German chancellery.
1601, he entered his name on the roles of the University of Koenigsberg as Dr Phil. and Dr. Med., probably hoping for professional status, but he did not get it.
1601, he started a medical practice in the White Lion Inn, Gdansk, where he dispensed his own cures.
Around 1608, he returned to Prague as a doctor. in 1609, he entered the service of the emperor.
According to the D.S.B.: 1611 and 1612-1614 were periods of extensive travel, first around Saxony, then to England and Amsterdam. According to the Neue deutsche Biographie in 1611-1614, he "entered himself" into the court of James I, where he remained for nearly five years.
Around 1614, he became non-resident physician and chemist for the Kassel court to Landgrave Maurice of Hesse, but he retained his private practice.
1618, he travelled to Stockhausen, where he attended a wealthy nobleman named von Eriedesel, but he left his household in Frankfurt.
1618-1622, he became physician to Duke Christian Wilhelm of Magdeburg.
8. Patronage
Types: Physician, Court Official, Aristrocrat, Eccesiastic Official
Early in his life there was the physician Severin Goebel (see above). Though he was a relative, the relationship sounds like patronage.
Sometime before 1600 he was probably a courtier to Emperor Rudolf II. Around 1612, he became physician-in-ordinary to Rudolf, though this appears to have been honorary because his name does not appear in court accounts. His family coat of arms was augmented by Rudolf and he was named Hofpfalzgraf (count Palantine) in 1609. A count Palantine was an imperial official who exercised a sort of supervision over the universities and had the right to grant doctorates and the title of poet laureate.
Landgrave Maurice of Hesse was a patron to a certain extent. Maier met him in 1611 while fishing for a job. He dedicated a book to Maurice, whereupon he was appointed "Medicus und Chymicus von Haus aus," but even when he was appointed, he did not belong to Maurice's inner circle of alchemical practioners.
The nobleman von Eriedesel presumably counts as a patron.
He was physician to Duke Christian Wilhelm, Archbishop of Magdeburg and primate of Germany.
Toward the end of his life, he attempted to cultivate the Danish Prince Friedrich III as a patron, but was not sucessful. He dedicated works to him.
Some evidence exists that supports the idea that he was connected with the English court while in England. There are copies of Arcana Arcanissima (ca. 1614) with manuscript dedications to both Sir William Paddy, physician to James I, and Sir Thomas Smith, first governor of the East India Company and treasurer of the Virgina Company.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. Ulrich Neumann, Neue deutsche Biographie, 15, 703a-4a.
  2. J.B. Craven, Count Michael Maier (Kirwall, Scotland, 1911; repr. London: Dawsons, 1969). [QD24.M3 C89] Bruce T. Moran, "Privilege, Communication, and Chemiatry: The Hermetic-Alchemical Circle of Moritz of Hessen-Kassel," Ambix, 32 (1985), 110-26. [QD13.A49 v. 32]
  3. Note: Craven is quite outdated, and Hubicki (in DSB) claims his entry there is the most up-to-date source. Hubicki varies somewhat from the Neue deutsche Biographie. I have indicated some of the points where they disagree.
  4. Moran seems to me to be something that deserves to be on a general patronage bibliography.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Ulrich Neumann, "Michael Maier (1569-1622), Arzt, Alchemist, Schriftsteller und Rosenkreuzer: Erste Ertäge eines biobibliographischen Forschungsprojektes," Mitteilungen, Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker, Fachgruppe Geschichte der Chemie, 8 (1993), 6-16.
  2. Bruce T. Moran, The Alchemical World of the German Court. Occult Philosophy and Chemical Medicine in tdhe Circle of Moritz of Hessen (1572-1632), Sudhollfs Archiv, Beiheft 29, (Stuttgart, 1991).
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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