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Muenster, Sebastian

1. Dates
Born: Niederingelheim, Hesse, 30 Jan 1488 (Bagrow says 1489)
Died: Basel, 26 May 1552
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 64
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official
His father was a Spitalmeister. A Spital is a hospital, or sometimes poorhouse. Thus his father was a "hospital master."
According to Burmeister's judgment, his family was poor, but not so poor that they could not travel to other cities to visit relatives, for instance.
3. Nationality
Birth: Niederingelheim, Germany
Career: Germany, Switzerland
Death: Basel, Switzerland
4. Education
Schooling: No University
Some private education in Latin in preparation for the university is assumed because Ingelheim had no grammar school.
c. 1505, began studies at Heidelberg. Since he does not appear in the matriculation roles, it is assumed that he attended lectures given by the Franciscans rather than the university.
After entering the Minorite order (1506), he was sent by the order to Rufach to study Hebrew under Konrad Pellikan. He also studied for a time at Freiburg.
He never received a degree, or (I gather) the equivalent of one. This caused him a little trouble later on in life.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Calvinist
1505, entered the Minorite order. 1507, took his vows. 1512, became a priest.
1529, converted to Protestantism. This was in Basel, where he spent the rest of his career. I think this means we should call him Calvinist.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Geography
Subordinate: Mathematics, Astronomy.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia
Secondary: Church Life, Publishing, Schoolmastering
1511-14, he accompanied Pellikan to Pforzheim as the equivalent of a famulus, a sort of servant/apprentice. He assisted Pellikan in teaching there as well.
1515-18, lecturer in theology and philosophy at the cloister in Tübingen.
1518, moved to Basel, where he still worked as a lecturer. He also worked as a proofreader, editor, and translator for the publisher Adam Petri (1454-1527).
1520/21, moved to Heidelberg, probably on orders from the order. 1521-3, probably still lecturing. 1524-7/9, occupied the chair of Hebrew at the University of Heidelberg. After he threatened to leave because his salary was too small, it was raised from 25 to 30 gulden (as a Minorite, he was underpaid anyway; another professor received 60 gulden).
1529, he left the order and moved to Basel, where he occupied the chair of Hebrew, at a salary of 60 gulden. Until 1545, students lodged at his house, bringing in a certain amount of income, but it was not significant and they were enough trouble that he eventually did without them. Münster saw his position as being so poorly paid that he considered resigning and living on his income from publishing books, but he remained on the faculty because of certain rights and privileges professors had (e.g. tax-free status).
1530, he married Anna Selber, daughter of the notary Sixtus Selber and widow of Münster's former employer, the printer Adam Petri. It seems that the motive for this marriage was certainly partly economic.
1542-4, he was professor of theology at Basel, and received an additional £60 of salary (60 gulden = £75).
1547/8, elected rector.
8. Patronage
Types: Eccesiastic Official, Aristrocrat, Unknown
Kaspar Satzger, the Provinzial (father superior), to whom Pellikan was secretary from 1514, was a patron to both Pellikan and MÜnster.
Though he is falsely said to have been court preacher in Heidelberg to the Elector Ludwig V of the Palatinate, he did serve on a commission of the university appointed by the Elector to investigate Luther's teachings. He also gave private instruction in Hebrew to the son of the Lord of Erbach at his court during Easter vacation of 1526.
The Kalendarium Hebraicum (1527) is dedicated to the Bishop of Trient, Berhard Cles, who intervened to allow Münster to travel to Basel from Heidelberg to oversee its printing while the university was trying to prevent his going.
It seems to me that Münster must have had some connection at Basel that arranged his position before he left Heidelberg, but I do not know who it might have been.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Cartography, Instruments
Münster did a map of Germany, and other maps including one of the area around Basel.
In order to compile his geography, Münster sent sets of instructions, including simple instructions for surveying, to various people throughout Germany (and Europe, I believe).
In 1525 Münster published a description of an instrument (which he called an Instrument of the Sun) for observations of the stars.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. Karl Heinz Burmeister, Sebastain MÜnster: Versuch eines biographischen Gesamtbildes, Baseler Beiträge zur Geschichtswissenschaft, no. 91 (Basel, 1963). [DQ110.M8 B96]
  2. This work is quite detailed.
  3. Leo Bagrow, A. Ortelii Catalogus Cartographorum, 2 vols. Ergänzungsheften Nr. 199 & 210 zu "Petermanns Mitteilungen," (Gotha, 1928-30), 2 (Nr. 210), 19-29.
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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