1. Childhood and Youth


Haller born in the Hasligut near Bern

Haller spent his early years outside Bern’s city walls.

Albrecht Haller was born in 1708, in the Hasligut on the Aare, the youngest of five children.

His parents died when Albrecht was still a child.

The Haller family lived in the Hasligut until the death of Haller’s father in 1721.


Attributed to Joseph Plepp, 1623

Map of the Bremgarten forest

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 807


Fortifications and the river Aare separate the city of Bern from the surrounding area.

The Hasligut, where Haller grew up, was in a clearing between the Bremgarten forest and the river.

The map records the trees available for timber in the Bremgarten forest.

But it also shows clearly that the Hallers lived a long way outside the city.


Young Albrecht, a child prodigy

Even as a child Haller’s industriousness and his great thirst for knowledge were striking.

Notes from his later years also show Haller keen to portray himself as an industrious boy.

At the age of five Albrecht used to sit on the stove and preach to the servants from the Bible.

At the age of nine he compiled biographies of 1000 to 2000 famous people.


early 18th century

Boy’s sword

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 3754


The sword symbolises entry into the world of adults.

In the 18th century men of status carried a richly decorated ornamental sword.

A boy’s sword marked the beginning of a new stage in his life.

Admittance to the High School gave Haller the right to wear a hat and sword at an early age.


unknown artist, 1st half of the 18th century

Haller as a student

© Burgerbibliothek, Neg. 2429


The portrait was probably painted at the beginning of Haller’s time as a student.

Haller is wearing a powdered curled wig, neckcloth and lace shirt under a dark jacket.

All this makes the solemn looking youth look older than he probably is.

Medical historians have recently put the age of the sitter at 16.

Protokoll der Schulratssitzung

Bern, 1 April 1718

Education Council meeting

© Bern, Staatsarchiv, StAB BIII 875


The Education Council decided to make an exception and admit the precocious boy.

Normally pupils entered the High School at the age of 14 or 15.

The admission exam required a German text to be translated into Latin.

Haller, aged 9, delivered a Greek translation as well within the time allowed.


Albrecht von Haller, Biel, 1723

Pocket diary

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 91


Haller was certainly highly gifted, but was also a thoroughly normal youth.

In 1722/23 Haller spent one year in Biel with his uncle Dr Johann Rudolf Neuhaus.

He wrote later that he shut himself up there for months and wrote poetry.

But his account book shows proof of gambling, visits to the tavern and excursions with friends as well.

2. Studies and Travels


Haller discovers the “big wide world” – riotous student life in Tübingen

The university town of Tübingen seemed to Haller like the “great world”.

In 1723 Haller started his medical studies in Tübingen.

But Haller’s diary and the list of expenses which he kept conscientiously show that the hard-working student was not averse to going out and enjoying himself.

Haller even witnessed two acts of student frivolity which had far-reaching consequences.


Haller moves to Holland – Leiden is the mecca for medicine

The medical faculty in Leiden was one of the most progressive in Europe.

In the 18th century the university of Leiden was known as a centre for experimental natural sciences.

The eminent physicians Hermann Boerhaave and Siegfried Albinus attracted numerous students to Leiden, including Haller.

Here the students were taught to back their learning with experience and experiments.

Nachdenklicher Knochenmann

Andreas Vesal, Basel, 1543

Masterpiece of Anatomy

© Bern, Zentralbibliothek der Universitätsbibliothek, Kp I 69


Andreas Vesal founded modern anatomy in 1543.

The Paduan anatomist doubted the ancient authorities and examined bodies himself.

His plates had an accuracy and expressiveness that had never been seen before.

Until the 18th century they were the model against which anatomists and artists measured themselves.

Anatomisches Prachtwerk

Bernhard Siegfried Albinus, Leiden, 1747

Pensive skeleton

© Bern, Zentralbibliothek der Universitätsbibliothek, ZB PW 101:1


Albinus showed Man as God’s perfect creation.

The students studied anatomy in detail, for this was the foundation of medicine.

In his illustrations Albinus stressed the elegance and harmony of the human body.

Haller was among those who greatly admired Albinus’ Atlas of 1747.


Albrecht von Haller, Leiden, 1727

Medical dissertation

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller C 32


The young doctor contradicts a famous professor of anatomy.

Georg Daniel Coschwitz had announced the discovery of a new salivary duct.

In his dissertation, Haller accused him of not having been meticulous enough.

By injecting wax he demonstrated that Coschwitz had only seen a small vein.

Hallers Doktordiplom

Leiden, 23 May 1727

Haller’s medical diploma

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 96 (2)


At the age of 19 Haller entered the world of doctors and scholars.

The diploma praises Haller’s “great learning” and “medical experience”.

But medical studies did not provide a chance to gain practical bedside experience.

Nevertheless, a medical degree from the famous University of Leiden was an ideal start to a career.

The professor demonstrates the dissection of corpses in the anatomy theatre

Siegfried Albinus used dissected corpses to demonstrate the structure of the human body.

Dissection had been part of the training of physicians since the 16th century.

In the anatomical theatre students became familiar with the different organs and muscles by looking at the corpse.

Haller paid for permission to repeat on the other side of the corpse the dissection which Albinus had already performed on the first side.

Die Anatomie des Dr. Tulp

after Rembrandt, 1632, copy 19th century

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 61535


Anatomy demonstrations had been conducted in Holland since the 17th century.

The doctor, Nicolaes Tulp, uses the corpse of an executed criminal to explain the skeletal muscles.

Those attending are members of the guild of barbers and surgeons.

The book at the bottom right might be an anatomy atlas to compare with what is being shown.


Haller’s educational journey starts in London

In London Haller did not only visit the city’s tourist attractions.

Haller, who knew no English, arrived in London on July 26th 1727. He went to see the Crown Jewels in the Tower.

But in addition to the tourist sites, Haller also spent time following up his areas of interest.

In London he visited surgeons, anatomists and the Chelsea botanical garden.

Tagebuch der Studienreise

Albrecht von Haller, 1727/1728

Diary of his study trip

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 38


Haller broadened his horizons through travel and critical observation.

Travelling scholars prepared themselves by reading travel guides and often kept a diary.

It was important to visit famous people, in order to build up a network for ones own career.

Haller carefully observed the country and people and noted both their merits and their weaknesses.


In Paris Haller watches surgical experiments on human beings

In Paris Haller decided not to operate on live patients.

He took this decision after watching several unsuccessful operations being performed by the surgeon Henri-François Le Dran.

In order to study anatomy himself, Haller procured corpses that had been dug up in secret.

After he was reported for doing this, Haller started devoting himself exclusively to the theatre and the opera.

Operation eines Blasensteins

L. Heister, Surgery, 1st ed, 1719/1770

Operation for a bladder stone

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 15009


he bladder stone is extremely painful, and the operation very dangerous.

On 19 November 1727 Haller watched Le Dran perform an operation.

Le Dran had to pierce the bladder five times and “each time push in all the tools causing fearful pain. The sufferer was very patient”.

The bladder collapsed, and the patient died the next day.


18th century


© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 5632


Difficult operations were practised on corpses.

In certain circumstances when the head has been injured the skull must be opened with a trephine.

The case contains the turning handle with three drills of various sizes and auxiliary instruments.

The students practised the dangerous operation on a corpse in Le Dran’s surgical course on 20 October 1727.

3. Discovering the Alps


In Basel Haller discovers botany as his field of research


Haller's trip to the Alps – an experience which changes the world

In Basel Haller fell in love with both poetry and botany.

Haller’s university friend Johannes Gessner sparked his passion for botany.

In the summer of 1728 the two of them undertook a four week hike in the Swiss mountains.

This trip inspired Haller to write his poem “The Alps” and was also the start of his systematic plant collection.

around 1730

Haller starts a comprehensive herbarium


Haller systematically documented what he found on his botanical trips.

Haller collected and described the plants which grew in the surroundings of his new home.

He examined the inner structure of each plant and noted the characteristics of the place where it was found.

Haller evolved his own system for classifying plants and used it to order his lists and the herbarium.

Hallers Herbarium Band 41

Albrecht von Haller, 1728–1777

Haller’s Herbarium Volume 41

© Paris, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Herbier Haller


Haller’s Herbarium contains over 10,000 items in 61 volumes.

He was particularly interested in species and varieties of agricultural crops.

Vol 41 contains the family of grasses which cereals and many fodder crops belong to.

Haller received numerous plants through international exchange with other botanists.

Haller and Linné: two botanists as friends and rivals


Linné and Haller were two of the most important botanists of the 18th century.

Carl von Linné and Haller exchanged numerous letters over the course of twelve years.

Both were interested in similar questions about the naming of plants, but their results were different.

Researchers like Haller and Linné developed botany into a science in its own right, rather than an offshoot of medicine.

around 1700

Haller’s predecessors in the Alps: Meyer, Marsigli and Scheuchzer

Discovering the Alps

The first pictures of glaciers were painted as part of alpine research

Research into the high mountain areas was initiated at the beginning of the 18th century by J.J. Scheuchzer and L. Marsigli.

Scheuchzer, from Zürich, put Marsigli, with whom he was in correspondence, in touch with the painter Felix Meyer of Winterthur.

Meyer painted views of the Swiss Alps for the Italian scholar.

Joh. J. Scheuchzer (1672–1733)

Johann Jakob Scheuchzer, Zurich, 1716

“Description of the Elements, Borders and Mountains of Switzerland”

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Mül S 684


“Description of the Elements, Borders and Mountains of Switzerland”

Scheuchzer was the first great explorer of the Swiss Alps.

During his journey through Switzerland in 1728 Haller visited the universal scholar in Zurich to pay his respects.

By specialising in botany, Haller himself later took a different path.


Haller’s poem “The Alps” – revealing the mountains to Europe’s elite

Discovering the Alps

Haller’s poem about the Alps marks the beginning of tourism in the Swiss mountains.

In his poem “The Alps” Haller put the mountains, long regarded as a place of terror, in a new light.

He rhapsodises about the magnificent mountain landscapes and their thundering waterfalls.

Haller’s verses attracted countless travellers to the Swiss mountains, which soon became a standard destination for Europe’s elite.

Der Dichter der Alpen

Johann Rudolf Huber, Bern, 1735

The poet of the Alps

© Privatbesitz, Foto: Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 2453


Haller, aged 28, appears to look up contemplatingly from his writing.

he mountains in the background are an allusion to Haller’s poem “The Alps” published in 1732.

The Lower Grindelwald Glacier and the Fiescherhorn can be distinguished.

Huber, in his day the most important painter in Bern, based the landscape on a sketch made on the spot.

«Die Alpen»

Albrecht von Haller, Bern, 1732

“Essay of Swiss poems”

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller A 1


This poem made Haller the most read poet in the German language.

“The Alps” first appeared in 1732 in Haller’s “Essay of Swiss poems”.

The volume went through eleven authorised new editions in Haller’s life time and was reprinted countless times.

It has been translated into French, Italian, English, Dutch, Swedish and Russian.

«Die Alpen»

Albrecht von Haller, Bern, 1734

«Versuch von Schweizerischen Gedichten» (2nd Edition)

© Bernisches Historisches Museum


«Versuch von Schweizerischen Gedichten» (2nd Edition)


Haller writes the foreword to the printed edition of Wolf’s Alpine World

from 1773

Haller’s legacy: Caspar Wolf paints virtuoso alpine pictures

Discovering the Alps

Mountain painting reached its first peak with Caspar Wolf.

The painter Caspar Wolf, from Muri in canton Aargau, travelled with the publisher Abraham Wagner to sketch the mountains.

Wolf worked up his impressions from these trips into superb landscape paintings.

Haller wrote the foreword to the printed edition of a series of Wolf’s views of the Swiss mountains.

Titelseite der Druckausgabe

R. Henzi (ed), Amsterdam, 1785

Title page of the printed edition

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 10000


Caspar Wolf published a number of printed editions of his pictures of the Alps.

The engraving shows the painter in the middle, and on the very right the alpine researcher Jakob Samuel Wyttenbach who wrote the text to Wolf’s pictures.

The foreword was by Albrecht von Haller; his portrait appears in the medallion at the top.

Der Lauteraargletscher

Aquatint after Caspar Wolf, Amsterdam, 1785

The Lauteraar glacier

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 10000


Tinted reproductions of Wolf’s paintings sold well.

A comparison with the original shows clearly: The copyist has not rendered the fracturing of the pile of boulders with the eye of the researcher as Wolf did.

The clouds have more to do with the taste of the public than with meteorology.

Unterer Grindelwaldgletscher

Aquatint after Caspar Wolf, Amsterdam, 1785

Lower Grindelwald glacier

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 10000


No painter before Caspar Wolf had dared go so far into the ice mass.

Felix Meyer had rendered the same glacier as an extraordinary natural formation.

Wolf stresses the rhythm and the repetition of the shapes in the ice and rocks.

In so doing he reveals how the forces of nature are subject to specific laws.

Die Lütschine bei Gsteig

Aquatint after Caspar Wolf, Amsterdam, 1785

The Lütschine near Gsteig

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 10000


The footbridge passes across the narrow entrance to the Grindelwald valley.

A mountain farmer and his wife, who have started across at its highest point, leave the observer feeling weakkneed and trembling.

The small figures against the sky are at the centre of the composition.

They are transfigured into a symbol of an austere but independent way of life.

Der Staubbach im Lauterbrunnental

Aquatint after Caspar Wolf, Amsterdam, 1785

The Staubbach

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 10000


At 297 m one of the highest waterfalls in Switzerland

The Staubbach Falls can easily be reached from the village of Lauterbrunnen.

Walkers on the grassy hillock stand marvelling at the water falling in a mass of spray.

Goethe wrote his poem “The Song of the Spirits over the Waters” here in 1775.

4. Doctor in Bern


Haller practises as an independent doctor in Bern

After completing his studies and travels Haller settled in Bern as a practising doctor.

In the 18th century medical diagnosis was based on talking to the patient.

There was practically no physical examination.

Haller treated mainly children and young ladies; a friend teased him as being the “médecin des demoiselles”.

Bern von Süden

Johannes Dünz, Bern, 1694

Bern from the south

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 815 a


A ring of strong fortifications in a picturesque landscape

The city of Bern lies in the background, surrounded by meadows, fields and woods.

Mediaeval city walls and baroque redoubts dominated its appearance until the 19th century.


Albrecht von Haller, Bern, 1734

Practice journal

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 17


Haller kept a record of his medical practice.

He used the journal to document his own practice as well as to record his scientific observations.

Haller visited his patients at home, and made brief notes on their ailments and the treatment used.

His doctor’s practice went satisfactorily, but also left him time for anatomical and botanical studies.

Cupping, bleeding and enemas – medical practice in the 18th century


18th century

Clyster syringe

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 7462


Purging and treating the bowel had an impact on the entire body.

In an enema or clyster about half a litre of liquid was injected into the bowel.

Along with tablets, ointments, tea and poultices, it was one of the main ways in which treatment was administered.

It was used for indigestion as well as for more general treatment of the body.


18th century

Apothecary’s mortar

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 18487


The apothecary prepared the medication prescribed by the doctor.

Medicinal treatment was restricted almost exclusively to herbs.

The specific properties of each plant acted on the balance of the bodily humours.

The ingredients were mixed together in the mortar to make complex medicinal compounds.



Blood-letting instruments

© Bern, Institut für Medizingeschichte / Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 20734


Blood-letting is one of the oldest types of medical treatments.

According to the ancient teaching on humours, illness upsets the balance of the bodily humours.

Letting blood was supposed to restore the balance of the humours.

A scarificator or lancet was used to open a vein and two to three decilitres of blood were removed.

Schnepper und Schröpfköpfe

19th century

Scarificator and cups

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 25578, 40188


In cupping, the skin was scored and blood was sucked out.

When the scarificator was released, small blades shot into the patient’s skin.

Then the warmed cups were put over the wound, and as they cooled down a vacuum was created and blood drawn out.

Cupping and blood-letting were among Haller’s standard treatments too.


A melancholy sensation in Bern: Haller dissects Siamese twins

Siamesische Zwillinge

Bern, 1735

Siamese twins

© Bern, Institut für Medizingeschichte


A strange birth caused a sensation; the twins were publicly dissected.

On 2 May 1735 Anna Pelet in Corcelles gave birth to Siamese twins who died immediately.

Haller dissected the corpses over three days in the anatomy theatre; the council paid the parents 50 thalers in compensation.

Haller’s assistent Johann Ludwig Hommel prepared the skeleton.

Sektionsbericht für den Berner Rat

Johann Sebastian Dür, illustrator, 1735

Dissection report for the Bern Council

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 3


Haller saw the twins as a sign of God’s wisdom and omnipotence.

The question was whether deformities were the result of chance or of divine providence.

Haller found the organs arranged in the best possible way to enable the twins to survive.

He saw this as proof of God’s omnipotence in creating new beings and giving them the means of life.

Haller made unsuccessful attempts to get a professorship and the position of city doctor.

Haller wanted to ensure his professional future in Bern.

Haller failed to obtain the position of city doctor, but the council had an anatomy theatre built for him.

Haller therefore devoted himself increasingly to research and the dissection of corpses.


Haller’s love poem “Doris” leads to marriage with Marianne Wyss

In 1731 Haller married his great love, Marianne Wyss.

Haller met Marianne during the course of his work as a doctor, and with his love poem “Doris” asked for her hand in marriage.

Haller’s future wife was related to Isaak Steiger who was later to hold Bern’s highest office, that of Schultheiss or mayor.

Haller hoped that this connection would give him a better chance of being elected to state offices.

Liebesgedicht «Doris»

Albrecht von Haller, 1733

Love poem “Doris”

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 60


The best known love poem of the first half of the 18th century

Haller wooed 19 year-old Marianne Wyss with this poem in 1730.

Haller himself considered his activities as a doctor more important than his poetry.

“A poet gives pleasure for 15 minutes, a doctor improves an entire life,” was his reason.

5. Professor in Göttingen

Göttingen: a sleepy town becomes a centre of science


George II, King of England and Elector of Hanover, founds the university of Göttingen

Göttingen University

In 1734 George Augustus, Elector of Hanover, founded the university in Göttingen.

The remoteness of Göttingen was supposed to prevent the students from becoming distracted.

Baron Gerlach Adolph von Münchhausen, the director of the university, drew famous professors to Göttingen by offering attractive conditions.

The library, inaugurated in 1737, was the world’s first research library and the model of all later university libraries.

Für Verdienste um die Universität

Georg Daniel Heumann, Göttingen, 1747

For services to the university

© Göttingen, Nieders. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Gr 2° H. Hann V 29 Rara


This sheet comes at the beginning of the portfolio of views of Göttingen.

The fictitious monument is in honour of Baron Gerlach Adolph von Münchhausen.

Münchhausen oversaw the development of the new university on behalf of its founder, George II.

For 40 years he worked for the good of Göttingen University and made it prosper.

Stadtplan von Göttingen

Georg Daniel Heumann, Göttingen, 1747

Town map

© Göttingen, NSUB, Gr 2° H. Hann V 29 Rara


The series of engravings presented the town and university of Göttingen.

Competition for the best scholars and the most students grew fierce in the 18th century.

The aim of the portfolio was to make the young university town better known and to draw students to Göttingen.

The town map helped new arrivals orientate themselves.

Das Kollegiengebäude

Georg Daniel Heumann, Göttingen, 1747

The main building

© Göttingen, Nieders. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Gr 2° H. Hann V 29 Rara


The new university needed new premises.

The main building was erected in 1734/36 on the site of the Dominican monastery.

The former monastery had previously housed a secondary school.

The main building includes lecture theatres, collections and the library.

Die Universitätsbibliothek

Georg Daniel Heumann, Göttingen, 1747

The university library

© Göttingen, Nieders. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Gr 2° H. Hann V 29 Rara


The research library was an attraction.

The Göttingen University library took a new approach to the acquisition of books.

Until then the aim of a library was to gather the most comprehensive collection of knowledge possible.

The Göttingen library concentrated on buying literature for specific research purposes.

Prospect der Allee in Göttingen

Georg Daniel Heumann, Göttingen, 1747

View of the boulevard

© Göttingen, Nieders. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Gr 2° H. Hann V 29 Rara


The establishment of the university sparked a building boom throughout the town.

The construction of the university was overseen by the country’s ruler.

George II also influenced other building work in the town.

In the foreground is the London tavern, built in 1737, which offered accommodation to well-born students.

Prospect der Pauliner Strasse

Georg Daniel Heumann, Göttingen, 1747

View of Pauliner Street

© Göttingen, Nieders. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Gr 2° H. Hann V 29 Rara


Wealthy people throng the streets of Göttingen.

The university brought economic prosperity to the town.

The population grew together with the new university.

This attracted visitors as well as tradesmen in all lines of business.

Winterliches Vergnügen

Georg Daniel Heumann, Göttingen, 1747

Winter pleasures

© Göttingen, Nieders. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Gr 2° H. Hann V 29 Rara


Young people enjoy themselves in the snow in Göttingen’s marketplace.

Young men and women amuses themselves in horse-drawn sleighs.

These winter amusements were based on mediaeval tournaments.

Haller’s daughter Marianne tells of an enjoyable sleigh ride in Göttingen


Professor of anatomy, botany and surgery: Haller draws students to Göttingen

Haller accepted the attractive invitation to Göttingen University.

Haller’s work on anatomy and alpine flora drew the attention of the scientific world to the young physician.

n Göttingen Haller became professor of anatomy, botany and surgery.

But even before he went, he knew that if he were elected to Bern’s Grand Council, he would return home.

Haller im Professorentalar

Johann Rudolf Studer, Bern, 1745

Haller in his professorial robe

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 1980E


Haller had his portrait painted by Johann Rudolf Studer in Bern in 1745.

Haller spent six weeks in Bern for the election to the Grand Council.

Studer portrayed Haller in the red gown of a Göttingen professor.

he picture was probably painted to serve as a new original for reprinting in Brucker’s “Picture Gallery”.


Haller designs a new district of Göttingen: anatomy theatre, botanical garden and Reformed church

Haller left his mark on a new part of the town of Göttingen.

When Haller took up his post, Göttingen University was in the process of being built.

As professor of anatomy, botany and surgery Haller oversaw the construction of the anatomical theatre and the botanical garden.

At his initiative a Reformed church was built in the same part of town a few years later.

Der Garten im Guckkasten

Balthasar Friedrich Leizel, Augsburg, ca. 1750

The garden in a peep box

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 61596


Within a few years Haller’s university garden had become a tourist site.

Proof of this is its use as a motif in peep boxes.

These were popular attractions at fairs. A mirror and lens were used to give pictures particular depth.

The sheets shown in peep boxes were mirror inverted and usually brightly coloured.

Botanischer Garten

Georg Daniel Heumann, Göttingen, 1747

The botanical garden and the anatomy theatre

© Göttingen, Nieders. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, gr 2° H. Hann V 29 Rara


Haller had the botanical garden and the anatomy theatre built.

Under Haller the medical faculty attracted students from all over Europe.

The proximity of the botanical garden and anatomy theatre had its advantages: In summer Haller taught botany, and in winter anatomy.

Schreiben an den Berner Rat

Albrecht von Haller, Göttingen, 1748

Letter to the Council of Bern

© Göttingen, Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Ms. Hist. 288h


Haller successfully collected money for the building of a Reformed church.

The establishment of a Reformed congregation in Göttingen was close to Haller’s heart.

He collected money in Switzerland and Holland; Bern donated 100 thalers.

He described the day the foundation stone was laid, 10 May 1752, as “the best day of his life in Göttingen”.


Tragedies in quick succession: Haller loses two wives and two children

Haller’s first years in Göttingen were overshadowed by a number of heavy blows.

Only one month after arriving in Göttingen, Haller’s beloved wife Marianne died.

Two years later death overtook his eldest son, Ludwig Albrecht.

Shortly after the birth of their first child, Haller’s second wife Elisabeth Bucher died, as did another child a few months later.


Refuge in work: Haller publishes Flora of Jena and Flora of the Alps

In his grief Haller sought comfort in his scientific work.

Haller numbed his pain by working furiously, both on botany and medicine.

In addition, he became involved in the running of the university, as dean in 1739 and as pro-rector in 1741.

Marriage to his third wife, Sophie Amalia Teichmeyer, brought him new hope.

Botanische Reisen in die Alpen

Albrecht von Haller, Göttingen, 1749

Opuscula Botanica

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller C 8


The collected edition “Opuscula Botanica” contains various short botanical works.

Haller used his visits to his homeland to visit the Alps.

He had his publications about his journeys illustrated with copper engravings of the species he had found.

In the centre of plate II is the “Astragalus”, now called Oxytropis halleri, which he discovered on the Gantrisch in 1739.

Botanische Reisen in die Alpen

Albrecht von Haller, Göttingen, 1742

First comprehensive Flora of Switzerland

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 61185


Haller described 2,000 plants, as well as algae, fungi, lichens and mosses.

This means he listed about 70% of the flowering plants known today in Switzerland.

For the names of the plants Haller used the usual brief description consisting of several parts.

The detailed description of each species also included its economic and medical uses.

Die erweiterte Flora der Schweiz

Albrecht von Haller, Bern, 1768

The expanded Flora of Switzerland

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller C 3


Haller’s Flora was still being described as the richest in Europe in the 19th century.

While Linné collected plants from all over the world, Haller aimed at the comprehensive coverage of a limited area.

Thanks to numerous helpers, he was able to give a botanical account of most of Switzerland.

He rejected Linné’s new binominal system for reasons of precision.

Flora Ienensis

Albrecht von Haller, Jena, 1745

Flora Ienensis

© Bern Burgerbibliothek, Haller C 7


Haller was active as a botanist not only in Göttingen and Switzerland.

Haller’s father-in-law Hermann Fr. Teichmeyer was a professor in Jena.

So Haller revised a book on the plants of Jena first published in 1718.

He replaced the six plates with copper engravings by his assistant and draughtsman Christian Jeremias Rollin.

Phytanthoza Iconographia

Joh. Wilh. Weinmann, Regensburg, 1745

Phytanthoza Iconographia

© Bern, Zentralbibliothek der Universitätsbibliothek, ZB W 9


Haller wrote the foreword to this prestigious botanical work.

His pharmacy had made the publisher Johann Wilhelm Weinmann very rich.

An enthusiastic botanist, he established a botanical garden with about 9,000 species.

He had plants from his garden illustrated and described in this book.

Grundlage der neuen Nomenklatur

Carl von Linné, Stockholm, 1753

Foundations of the new nomenclature

© Zentralbibliothek Bern, Br III 14


Linné described 8,000 species, about 3% of the known plants in the world today.

The scientific naming system for living things in use today with a noun for the genus and an adjective for the species is based on this work.

In it, Linné used the binomial system systematically for the first time.

The system was originally conceived only as an extra help for students.

Herbarium Blackwellianum II

Elisabeth Blackwell, Nuremberg, 1750/1773

Herbarium Blackwellianum II

© Bern, Zentralbibliothek der Universitätsbibliothek, ZB Nat. fol 1


The illustrated work contained pictures of 600 useful plants.

The publisher of the new edition, the Nuremberg physician and apothecary Chr. J. von Trew, was one of Haller’s correspondents.

Haller himself refers in his writings to the plates in Blackwell’s work.

As for toadflax, Haller mentions that it is highly praised for treatment of piles.


Refuge in work: Haller publishes the Anatomical Atlas


Haller’s anatomical atlas set the standard in the illustration of blood vessels.

A didactic purpose underlay Haller’s “Icones anatomicae”.

The illustrations presented the structure of the veins in a simplified way, highlighting what was most important.

Details, variants and the results of research were explained in the text accompanying the individual plates.

Hallers Atlas der Gefässanatomie

Albrecht von Haller, Göttingen, 1743–1756

Haller’s Atlas of Vascular Anatomy

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller D 5


Haller was a strong supporter of specialised research.

In anatomy Haller concentrated on research into blood vessels.

He investigated their structure in dozens of corpses in order to precisely establish their normal arrangement.

The plates which appeared over the course of 14 years reflect Haller’s continuing research.


Haller created the basis for modern physiology.

Before Haller, physiology – how the body works – was based mainly on suppositions.

By dissecting corpses and experimenting on live animals, Haller systematically investigated how the living organism works.

The results of Haller’s research led to a new understanding of the body.

Das Handbuch der Physiologie

A. v. Haller, Lausanne/Bern, 1757–1766

Manual of Physiology

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller D 58


Haller’s Physiology remained the standard work for 50 years.

5,000 pages with 50,000 footnotes imparted the state of knowledge.

Haller wanted to put physiology on an experimentally sound footing.

On the basis of a critical comparison of literature and his own research he compiled the first comprehensive description of the subject.

Irritabilität und Sensibilität

A. v. Haller, Paris/Lausanne, 1756–1760

Irritability and Sensibility

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller D 17


Haller’s teaching about stimulation and sensitivity turned medicine upside down.

From his animal experiments Haller realised that muscles alone are responsible for movement and nerves alone for sensation.

Muscles react to stimulation even independently of nerves.

The body is therefore not a machine controlled by the soul.


Through animal experiments Haller discovers how the nervous system works


Haller was the first person to conduct systematic experiments on live animals.

Haller was convinced that the organism could not be understood without experiments on living bodies.

His animal experiments were repeated thousands of times all over Europe.

Unlike today, there was practically no critical debate about the ethics of animal experimentation in the 18th century.


Göttingen “Academic Notices”: Haller becomes editor-in-chief and writes 9000 reviews

Hallers Atlas der Gefässanatomie

Albrecht von Haller, Göttingen, 1758

The Göttingen “Academic Notices”

© Zentralbibliothek Bern (2008 leihweise in der Burgerbibliothek Bern)


Haller became the editor-in-chief of the journal in 1748 and was an influential critic.

The journal was an important means of publicity for the University of Göttingen.

Haller made the “Academic Notices” into Germany’s leading critical scientific journal.

As was usual at the time, he also discussed his own works in the journal.


The Emperor Francis I (husband of Maria Theresa) ennobles Haller

King George II

Emperor Francis I, the husband of Maria Theresa, ennobled Haller.

The English king George II tried to bind Haller closer to him by showing him special favour.

He therefore persuaded the emperor to ennoble Haller.

But in Albrecht von Haller’s home state of Bern, the grant of nobility from the emperor carried little weight.

Hallers Adelsdiplom

Emperor Francis I, 1749

Haller’s certificate of nobility

© Privatbesitz, Foto: Burgerbibliothek Bern


At the instigation of the English king, Haller was raised to the nobility.

Haller was allowed to accept his ennoblement as a “token of grace and favour”.

However, under a ruling of the Grand Council from 1731 foreign certificates and titles had “neither force nor validity” in the territory of Bern.

Medaille auf König Georg II.

Johann Melchior Mörikofer, Bern, 1752

Medal in honour of King George II

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, MS 3192


Haller helped the Bern-based medal maker Mörikofer to get contracts.

Thanks to Haller’s good offices, Mörikofer was asked to create a medal for the birthday of the English king.

He was also commissioned to make the prize medal for Göttingen University.

The front of both medals shows a bust portrait of George in armour with wig and laurel crown.


Johann Melchior Mörikofer, Bern, 1754

Haller medal

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 4118/5161


Mörikofer created this medal on his own initiative.

He wanted to thank Haller for the commission for the prize medal for Göttingen University.

The portrayal is based on Mörikofer’s medal for King George II.

The Haller medal was also made for sale in different price categories, in silver, copper, bronze and tin.

Das Leben des Herrn von Haller

Joh. Georg Zimmermann, 1755

The life of Mr von Haller

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller E 11**


The first biography of Haller was written by his pupil.

Zimmermann lived in the same house as Haller in Göttingen and knew many details from his own observation.

In numerous letters Haller guided Zimmermann’s description of his life in the direction he wanted.

The title page shows Mörikofer’s Haller medal.

Professor in Göttingen

Johann Jacob Bruckner’s “Picture Gallery” features the famous scholars of his time.

Reproductions of portraits of famous scientists sold well in the 18th century and were to be found in many study rooms.

Albrecht von Haller is one of the most important scholars featured in Bruckner’s “Picture Gallery”.

Haller had a portrait of himself specially painted as a template for the print.

Porträt zurückgewiesen

Joh. J. Haid after Chr. N. Eberlein, 1745

Portrait rejected

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Sammlung Mülinen


Haller was not pleased with this reproduction of his portrait.

Haller sent the engraver Haid a print with instructions for corrections.

Haid responded by saying he could not improve the portrait without a better original.

Eberlein’s original for this print has been lost.

Porträt nach neuer Vorlage

Joh. J. Haid after Joh. R. Studer, 1745

Portrait taken from a new original

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller E 51


The likeness to the sitter is now obvious.

Haid’s second portrait of Haller for the “Picture Gallery” is based on the painting by Studer.

The features are stronger and at the same time more attractively framed by the full curls of the wig.

The table pushed to one side gives the sitter more space and a greater presence.

6. Magistrat in Bern


Haller is the most famous professor in Göttingen, but he nevertheless returns to Bern

Return to Bern

His election to the Grand Council of Bern persuaded the famous scholar to leave.

As a professor in Göttingen Haller had earned a reputation as an eminent scientist.

Thanks to an intensive exchange of letters and a visit to Bern, Haller succeeded in getting elected to the Grand Council in 1745.

That was the precondition for holding office in the Bernese government – a desire Haller had entertained for a long time.

Haller als Gelehrter

Emanuel Handmann, Bern, 1757

Haller as scholar

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 4665


The portrait was painted in Haller’s last year in the office of Rathausammann.

The famous Bernese portrait painter shows Haller as a successful and respected scholar.

The books on the table contain writings by Haller on anatomy and physiology.

An engraving of the portrait was printed in Haller’s Manual of Physiology.


Haller becomes Rathausammann in Bern, and gains influence over the election of council members

Haller in Bern

Haller exchanged his professorship for a modest position in the state administration.

In a move that the academic world found inexplicable, in 1753 Haller took the post of Rathausammann (bailiff) in Bern.

In the eyes of the Bernese patricians, holding state office was an important goal and an investment in the future of the family.

The office of Rathausammann was seen as a springboard for more rewarding posts, for Haller too.

Haller as Rathausammann

The Rathausammann was more than just a janitor. As the vote counter the Rathausammann attended the closed sessions of the Small Council.

Under an old custom the office also conferred a right of nomination.

As Rathausammann Haller was able to nominate a candidate for the next election.


Health councillor for life – a new position is created for Haller

Haller wants better training for midwives

Haller in Bern

The authorities created a new position in order to keep Haller in Bern.

Göttingen University repeatedly made Haller attractive propositions in order to entice him back.

The Bernese authorities therefore created a new position for Haller as health councillor – not very attractive financially, but honourable.

Haller felt he had been recognised as being indispensable, and remained in Bern.

Erste Hilfe für Ertrunkene

Haller in Bern Albrecht von Haller, Bern, 1776

First aid in cases of drowning

© Bern, Staatsarchiv, Mandat 1776, Okt. 1.


As health councillor Haller was involved in many activities.

Haller drew up for the government a report on saving drowned persons.

On the basis of his physiological experiments he advised artificial respiration and an enema containing tobacco smoke.

The Health Council offered a reward of 30 francs for every rescue.


Haller’s daughter marries

Haller in Bern

The marriage of Haller’s daughter Marianne was the cause of some turmoil.

Among Bern’s patrician families, marrying within the same class was of central importance for the future status of the family.

Marianne’s betrothal to Vinzenz Frisching was broken off because the Frisching family did not regard the Hallers as being of high enough standing.

In a second attempt Marianne married Franz Ludwig Jenner – no worse a match than Frisching.

Franz Ludwig Jenner

(attributed to) Emanuel Handmann, ca. 1770

Franz Ludwig Jenner

© Jegenstorf, Schloss, Inv. 1638 Dep.


Marianne Haller and Franz Ludwig Jenner were married in 1753.

Franz Ludwig Jenner was recommended to Haller as an ideal son-in-law for his second choice.

Jenner also came from one of Bern’s patrician families.

He was said to have a good heart, be hard working and his family was less arrogant than that of Marianne’s first fiancé, Frisching.

Marianne Jenner-Haller

Emanuel Handmann, 1771

Marianne Jenner-Haller

© Jegenstorf, Schloss, Inv. 1637 Dep.


163 letters were exchanged before the wedding of Haller’s daughter.

In Göttingen, Haller could not conduct the marriage negotiations face-to-face as was usual.

If Haller held a position in the Council, that would make his daughter a good match.

Haller returned to Bern on the occasion of Marianne’s wedding in 1753 in order to stand for election.

Lektüre auf der Chaiselongue

Sigmund Freudenberger, after 1773

Reading on a chaise longue

© Bern, Bundesamt für Kultur (Eigentum der Schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft), vW 77


A suitable occupation for the wife of a patrician

Haller did not only want to impress upon his son-in-law that he should always treat Marianne sensitively

He also wanted him to know that his daughter loved reading.

As her husband he should always encourage her to do so and should choose suitable books for her.

Junge Frau am Klavier

Sigmund Freudenberger, after 1773

Young woman at the piano

© Bern, Nationalbibliothek, Sammlung Gugelmann, Freudenberger C 3


A keyboard instrument was part of the furnishings of a Bernese patrician household.

Marianne wanted to continue to practise the musical accomplishments she had acquired in Göttingen.

Franz Ludwig Jenner promised her a harpsichord for their marital home.

This also met the wishes of his father-in-law.

Haller is unlucky: he fails to be elected to the Small Council

Haller and the State

There was one goal Haller failed to reach: membership of the Small Council.

Anyone elected to the council held the position to the end of his life.

Elections took place in Bern every ten years or so, in order to fill the council seats left vacant by members’ deaths.

In 1764 Haller, then aged 56, had another chance to gain a seat in the Small Council, but he failed to be elected.

In his youth Haller is critical of the state

In later years Haller praises the merits of aristocracy

Haller and the State

Haller was a severe critic of democracy.

Haller decisively opposed Rousseau’s idea of the sovereignty of the people.

Haller feared unrest and disorder if the people had too much power.

He spoke emphatically in support of power being vested in the patricians with the people being subordinate to them.

Memorial gegen die Oligarchie

Albrecht von Haller, Bern, 1735

Protest against oligarchy

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, FA von Fellenberg 150 (2), Nr. 1


Haller criticised the Bernese patricians for their ever greater exclusiveness.

As a young man in 1735 Haller criticised the continuously decreasing number of ruling families.

The Bernese Council discussed Haller’s memorandum in March 1736.

His protest was rejected by a majority of 16 votes.

Vom idealen Staat

Albrecht von Haller, Bern

On the ideal state

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller A 68


As an old man Haller outlined his political ideal in three novels.

Haller favoured the rule of patricians who all enjoyed the same rights.

Free from everyday cares, they were best suited to government, he believed.

If the people could vote, Haller feared they would choose according to “a candidate’s demagogic affability”.

The republic of Bern: the biggest city-state north of the Alpss

The Schultheiss in Bern sits enthroned like a monarch

The patrician families of Bern: a narrow circle of power

The Republic of Bern

The Republic of Bern was ruled by the Schultheiss and by the Grand and Small Councils.

According to the law, the Grand Council, representing all those with the status of burgher, was the supreme body of the Republic of Bern.

But in the 18th century government business was in practice conducted by the Schultheiss (Mayor) and the Small Council meeting in daily session.

Important decisions were adopted by the Small and Grand Councils sitting jointly.


Johann Friedrich Funk I, Bern, 1735

Mayor’s Throne in the Council Hall

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 467


From here the Mayors of Bern presided over the Great Council.

The throne is the most important attribute of power.

Lion heads on the armrests, lion paws on the feet embody the high position of the person who sat here.

It is one of the few thrones to have survived the French Revolution.

Allegorie der Republik Bern

Joseph Werner, Bern, 1682

Allegory of the Republic of Bern

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 1951


The painting presents the blessings of good government.

Berna holds shield and sword over the Republic, the armour-clad bear at her side.

In the background, Fides (faith) with the chalice and bible guards over Felicitas (happiness) with the cornucopia and helm of state.

Felicitas raises the Greek liberty cap as symbol of Republican freedom.

Berner Regimentstafel

Johann Grimm, Bern, 1726–1735

Bern’s governing families

© Burgerbibliothek Bern


At the centre of the Bernese government was the Council.

Only a few families could become members of the Council.

The family coats-of-arms of the members of the Small Council are displayed around the Münster in the middle.

The arms of the families represented in the Grand Council are shown on the pillars at the sides.


Bernese Oberland (?), 17th/18th century

Executioner’s sword

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 46773


Up to the 19th century serious crimes were punished with death.

The 18th century knew only two punishments for serious crimes: death or banishment.

Beheading by the sword was regarded as more honourable than hanging.

Death sentences passed for political crimes were supposed to prevent a repetition.

The Republic of Bern

In the 18th century in Bern as elsewhere criticism of the patrician system had become louder.

Members of all families who were burghers of Bern in principle had the right to be elected to office in the Bernese government.

But in the second half of the 18th century, a few families divided up the influential posts between themselves.

Families who rarely got to hold these offices resisted the concentration of power by writing protests – as did Haller.


Bern, 1749

The “Henzi Conspiracy”

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 486971.1/2


The manifesto presents the uprising from the standpoint of the authorities.

Dissatisfied burgher wanted to get the constitution changed.

Their aim was spread power more widely among families with burgher status.

The leaders of the movement were executed or banished as conspirators.

Schmähzettel gegen das Régime

Bern, 3rd June 1718

Inflammatory leaflets

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Mss.h.h.XII.275 (7e)


Townspeople with no political rights called for resistance to the authorities.

The inflammatory leaflets were stuck on doors or walls with sealing wax.

One called on the Huguenot refugees in Bern either to flee or to rise up in arms against the régime.

The other announced a plot by citizens and peasants against the government.

The Economic Society: better use of natural resources

The Economic Society

The goal of the Economic Society of Bern was to encourage agriculture, commerce and crafts.

First of all a systematic description had to be made of the situation in the country.

When problems were found, they were published in journals or as separate booklets with a prize offered for a solution.

The best suggestions were rewarded with a medal.

Abhandlungen und Beobachtungen

The Economic Society of Bern (ed), 1764

Papers and Observations

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, OGG I 382


The journal of the Economic Society of Bern

The publication of the Economic Society appeared simultaneously in German and French.

That was decisive for its international reputation.

The title page shows the society’s prize medal, with a beehive.

Corps d’observations

Société d’agriculture, Rennes, 1757/1758

Corps d’observations

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, OGG I 384


Journal of the Agricultural Society of Brittany

The Agricultural Society of Rennes in Brittany was a model for the Economic Society of Bern.

Other inspirations were the economic societies in Edinburgh (founded 1723), Dublin (1731) and London (1754).


Johann Kaspar Mörikofer, Bern, 1763

Prize medal

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. MS 636/MS 2496


«Hinc Felicitas» – the medal of the Economic Society of Bern

The medal was awarded to winners of the prize contests.

The design is an allusion both to the medal of the Republic and to the aims of the society.

The personification of Liberty sits enthroned on a modern plough, and over her is the inscription: “From here comes Happiness”.

Samuel Engel (1702–1784)

unknown painter, Bern, ca. 1760

Samuel Engel (1702–1784)

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 50531


Founding member and first president of the Economic Society Bern

Engel was a cousin and close friend of Haller.

The scholarly magistrate wrote papers on timber growing and grain policy.

In his practical activities as an estate owner he also used Haller’s discoveries, for example in introducing the potato.

Vinzenz Frisching (1727–1790)

Emanuel Handmann, Bern, 1761

Vinzenz Frisching (1727–1790)

© Privatbesitz, Foto: Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 3451E


Magistrate with a watering can and sun hat, book and beehives

The picture reflects the enthusiasm for agriculture which seized educated society.

Vinzenz Frisching was the faithless fiancé of Haller’s daughter Marianne.

He was one of the sponsors of the Economic Society who paid an annual subscription as a passive member.

Franz Victor Effinger (1734–1815)

Friedr. Oelenhainz, Bern, 1792

Franz Victor Effinger (1734–1815)

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 5496


A holder of state office and an active member in difficult times

Franz Viktor Effinger was elected to Bern’s Grand Council in 1775 and to the Small Council in 1788.

In around 1800 he was one of the few remaining members who exerted himself to keep the Economic Society in existence.

Alpine Gemischtwirtschaft

After A. Fischer, 1798

View of the Tellenburg in the Frutigta

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 6789


Bernese Oberland: View of the Tellenburg in the Frutigtal

In general animal husbandry and dairy farming predominated in the Oberland.

The Obersimmental and the Saanenland were given over entirely to herding.

But in most parts of the Oberland a certain proportion of land was devoted to grain and potatoes.

Kleine Milchmelchter

Canton Bern, ca. 1740

Milk churn

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, 7422


Highly decorated equipment is evidence of a proud peasantry.

Even everyday items are often richly decorated with carved designs.

The inscriptions record that many objects have been passed on down the generations.

The smallness of the churn is a reminder that the milk yield per cow was considerably lower in the 18th century than it is today.


Haller becomes president of the Economic Society of Bern

The Economic Society

With Haller as president, the Economic Society increased its international reputation.

When it announced its foundation, the Economic Society of Bern invited all interested parties, whether patrician or farmer, to participate in it.

However, only very few farmers became members.

As a scholar with a pan-European reputation, Haller brought an extensive network of connections into the society.

Präsident Haller

Cast of the bust by Johann Friedrich Funk

President Haller

© Burgerbibliothek Bern


Haller’s fame strengthened the economic-patriotic movement.

Haller was president of the Economic Society in 1766 and 1768 and then from 1770 to 1776.

In 1779 the society bought a marble bust of its late president made by the famous sculptor Joh. Fr. Funk.

The original bust has disappeared; only plaster casts survive.

Friedrich von Sinner (1713-1791)

Heinrich Rieter, 1786/87

Friedrich von Sinner (1713-1791)

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 11668


Founding member, president and holder of high state office

Sinner climbed the career ladder in the Bernese state, ending up as Schultheiss.

In the portrait he is wearing the Order of the Black Eagle, awarded by the King of Prussia.

As president and high magistrate he added to the prestige of the Economic Society.

The Economic Society

Analysis of the countryside and land use provides a basis for improvement.

The Economic Society wanted to use this to raise yields and improve the food situation.

Treatises on species, varieties and their requirements were designed to help choose the most suitable crops.

As a botanist Haller contributed his specialist knowledge.

Sorten der Saatgerste

Albrecht von Haller, Zurich, 1782

Types of seed barley

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, OGG Archiv 48


Haller distinguished useful plants not only according to their species.

His position contrasted with that of Carl von Linné.

The sheet shows two varieties of seed barley differentiated by Haller.

The difference is crucial when it comes to obtaining a “greater or smaller yield in a particular soil”.

Sorten der Saatgerste

The Economic Society of Bern (ed), Zürich, 1782

Collecting clover seeds

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, OGG I 380


The procurement of seeds was of great economic importance.

The Economic Society presented a rake for stripping clover seeds.

The inventor was an engineer from Vaud.

Working with his wife he was reported to have collected as many seeds in the same time as “sixteen people could have done by hand”.

Abhandlung über neue Futterkräuter

Albrecht von Haller, Bern, 1770

Paper on new fodder crops

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 61623


New crops helped to modernise agriculture.

The Economic Society asked Haller for a paper on fodder plants.

Haller’s catalogue names all the fodder plants grown in Switzerland at the time.

In addition he listed all the foreign plants he could recommend for local cultivation.

The Economic Society

The well-directed use of natural fertilisers led to higher yields in fields and meadows.

Haller and his like-minded colleagues preached the cultivation of nitrogen fixing fodder plants like lucerne and sainfoin in order to improve soils.

Cattle were fed these crops when in the stable; their liquid manure and dung were applied to the fields specifically as fertiliser.

The higher grain yields which resulted reduced the frequency of food shortages.


Haller preaches a new strategy in the fight against cattle plague

Cattle Plague

Haller recommended police measures rather than magic against cattle plagues.

Cattle breeding had been an important branch of the economy in Switzerland since the late Middle Ages.

In the 18th century cattle plagues threatened the livelihood of a large proportion of the population.

Haller saw compulsory slaughter and compen- sation for the farmers affected as the way to contain outbreaks.

Erlass der Berner Regierung

Bern Chancellery, 1744

Edict of the Bernese government

© Bern, Staatsarchiv, Mandat 1744, Okt. 14


The edict recommends medications and blood-letting to cure cattle plague.

But medical measures were not sufficient to prevent the plague from spreading.

In contrast to many other experts, Haller thought it was irresponsible to combat the plague by medical means alone.


Bern, 1772

Regulations regarding cattle

© Bern, Staatsarchiv, Mandat 1772, Feb. 20.


As health councillor, Haller had a decisive input into the new regulations.

Health certificates, quarantine and compulsory slaughter were not new measures.

What was new in Haller’s concept was how they were carried out.

Generous compensation payments were designed to encourage peasants to report sick animals immediately.

Abhandlung über die Viehseuche

Albrecht von Haller, 1773

Paper on cattle plague

© Bern, Zentralbibliothek der Universitätsbibliothek (ZB UB), ZB H. XXXI. 133 (6)


Haller’s paper formed the basis and a commentary for the new regulations.

Haller backed his views with international literature and what he had learned from his own dissections

The paper appeared first in the journal of the Economic Society.

French, Latin and Italian editions show that it was widely disseminated internationally.

Bannzapfen aus dem Emmental

Emmental, mid 18th cent.

Protective charms from the Emmental

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 59078.1–2


Protective charms were supposed to protect man and beast from disease.

Objects with magical powers were plugged into holes drilled in doorposts, and blessed.

Here they are natural items and verses from St John’s Gospel.

In Protestant Emmental monks were brought from Catholic Lucerne to perform the “plugging” ceremony.

The Economic Society

An invention from the Emmental became famous throughout Europe.

The Economic Society of Bern announced the invention of a machine to remove tree stumps.

Haller wrote a report on the innovation in the Göttingen “Academic Notices”.

The invention by the farmer Peter Sommer also found a place in the famous «Encyclopédie» of Diderot and d'Alembert.

Von Affoltern in die Welt

John Mills, Vienna, 1767

Grubbing up device invented by Peter Sommer

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, OGG I 99


The machine from the Emmental attracted international attention.

Peter Sommer’s invention for grubbing up tree stumps found its way into the great economic books of the time.

The illustration was taken from the Bernese publication.

Orders and field reports came in from many places in Europe.

Peter Sommers «Hebezeug»

The Economic Society of Bern (ed), Zürich, 1760

Peter Sommer’s Grubbing up device

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, OGG I 378


When the tree is grubbed up, the roots are torn out too.

Peter Sommer, a farmer from Emmental, presented a machine in Bern which made this work considerably easier.

The Bernese authorities immediately ordered several of these devices.

The Economic Society made Peter Sommer an honorary member.

Über Göttingen nach Paris»

Diderot/d’Alembert, Paris, 1762

Sommer’s invention in the Parisian “Encyclopédie”

© Bern, Zentralbibliothek der Universitätsbibliothek , ZB Lexica 20 / Z 393


Sommer’s invention was described in the Parisian “Encyclopédie”.

Haller supported the international dissemination of Sommer’s “grubbing up device”.

He reviewed the report of the Economic Society of Bern in the Göttingen “Academic Notices”.

This smoothed its way to Paris and an entry in the great Encyclopaedia of the Enlightenment.

7. Director of Salt in Roche


Haller becomes director of salt – a lucrative position


With the income from his post as director of salt Haller buys two estates

For six years the learned Haller was the director of a remote mine.

In 1758 Haller took over the management of the salt mines in Roche, because no one else had applied for the post.

Haller’s task was to supervise the mine, but he also found time to devote himself to scientific work.

The years in Roche were among the happiest of his life.

Siegel des Salzdirektors

18th century

Seal of the director of salt

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 480.6


As director in Roche Haller was in charge of running the saltworks on the ground.

He was responsible to the salt administration in Bern, which oversaw the strategic management of the salt business as a whole.

As director of salt Haller had to send regular reports to Bern.

Haller probably also used this seal.

Director of Salt

As director Haller oversaw the working of the salt mine.

Haller was responsible for the infrastructure and production processes.

That included the maintenance of several kilometres of wooden pipes from the source to the salt pans.

Every quarter Haller had to submit the accounts to his superiors.

Die Rechnung des Salzdirektors

Albrecht von Haller, Roche, 1760

The accounts of the director of salt

© Bern, Staatsarchiv, StAB BV 810


Haller kept the accounts of the salt works – not entirely free of error.

His superiors in Bern demanded quarterly and annual financial accounts.

In 1760 17 points in Haller’s account were rejected, as against 59 shortcomings in the accounts in his first year.

n particular Bern criticised the high postage costs which Haller reported.

Geschirr für Salz und Pfeffer

18th century

Salt and pepper dish

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 7616


Dish in two sections, with tin cover

Food was seasoned at the table.

Salt cellars for the table contained only small amounts in order to avoid losses and dampness.

But the containers could be extremely beautifully decorated on the outside to reflect the value of the contents and the wealth of the owner.

Salzfass für das Vieh

from Islikon (Thurgau), 1739

Salt container for cattle

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 7203


Cattle, too, need salt to lick in order to thrive.

Large quantities of salt were used to preserve meat and fish and to make cheese.

In the 18th century treatises described how cattle also need salt regularly.

But because of its high price, they rarely got to enjoy it.

Salt is of strategic importance for Bern

In the 18th century salt is a sought-after commodity in short supply

Director of Salt

Having its own sources of salt was supposed to make Bern independent of salt imports.

Since the Middle Ages Bern had got its salt from Burgundy, and was thus dependent on France.

In 1554 the first source of salt in Switzerland was discovered in Roche in Bernese-ruled Vaud.

But the salt produced by the Bernese state from 1685 was not sufficient to replace imports.

Vertrag über Salzlieferungen

Charter, Salins and Bern, 27th January 1448

Contract for salt deliveries

© Bern, Staatsarchiv, Fach: Frankreich 1448 Jan 27.


The state took over the task of ensuring salt supplies.

In the 15th century Bern had stopped leaving the salt trade entirely in private hands.

In 1448 Bern reached an agreement with the saltworks in Salins for regular salt deliveries.

That was the first step towards a state salt monopoly.

Die Zobelsche Stiftung

Gregor Bair, Augsburg, 1583

The Zobel gift

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 2338/2339


Bern received a valuable gift in exchange for its grant of salt rights.

The merchant Zobel of Augsburg leased the saltworks in Aigle and Roche.

In 1583 the Bern Council extended his contract for another ten years.

In gratitude for the profitable business, he presented the city with this fine three-part silver set.

Staatliches Salzmonopol

Decree, Bern, 18th September 1722

State salt monopoly

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 59453


Violations of Bern’s salt monopoly were punishable by law.

In order to ensure its supplies during the Thirty Years War, Bern nationalised the salt trade.

The ban on private dealings was confirmed in 1701.

Since it was frequently ignored, attempts were made to enforce the ban by threats of punishment.

Wappentafel der Salzdirektoren

Emanuel Gruber, Bern, 1746/47

Coats of arms of the directors of salt

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 928


In 1623 the salt trade was nationalised and the salt chamber established.

The arms of the salt directors from the Small Council are shown on the left, and those of the directors from the Grand Council on the right.

The group at the bottom consists of the arms of the treasurers.

The pictures are of salt warehouses.

Die Saline in Roche

Early 18th century

The salt works in Roche

© Bern, Staatsarchiv, StAB BV 881


The drawing shows an open pan saltwork in Roche before Haller’s term of office.

The huge covered pans were heated by a fire burning below them.

The brine would evaporate off.

The salt left behind was scooped out and laid out to dry.

Beschreibung der Salzwerke

Albrecht von Haller, Roche, 1764

Description of the salt mine

© Bern, Staatsarchiv, StAB BV 309


Haller describes his experiments to improve the production of salt.

Haller recommended taking care of the forests and being economical with wood.

He tried to dry the brine in the sun, as had long been the practice by the sea shore.

Haller’s paper ran through six editions, but his method did not catch on.

Salt production consumes a lot of wood

A graduation tower is supposed to reduce the consumption of wood

Director of Salt

Graduation towers were used to increase the salt concentration of the brine.

The salt springs near Aigle, Roche and Bex contained only a low concentration of salt.

Therefore the brine was fed through a graduation tower, passing through huge bundles of brushwood or straw, during which process part of the water evaporated.

But it took a huge amount of timber to build a graduation tower.

Director of Salt

The brine was evaporated in huge pans set over wood fires.

It took one and a half tonnes of wood to obtain one tonne of salt.

Maintaining the surrounding forests and supplying the timber was vitally important for running a salt works.

In order to reduce the huge amount of timber needed, Haller tried to dry the brine in the sun.

8. Later Years


Embryology – even as an old man Haller is still active in research

Later Years

In his later years Haller worked on the development of the embryo.

Haller was interested in whether the act of fertilisation produces a ready-made body, or whether the body forms within the egg.

This can best be observed in hens’ eggs.

Even today embryology is still taught using the example of hens’ eggs.

Hallers Laborprotokoll

Albrecht von Haller, 1767

Haller’s laboratory record

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 5


Haller’s observation of hens’ eggs made him into a leading embryologist.

Haller concluded from his investigations that the body is formed at the very beginning.

This research was so complicated that only Haller and his opponent Kaspar Wolff in St Petersburg really understood the matter.

Haller’s authority meant that his view was the one which largely prevailed.

Hallers Mikroskop

Haller’s microscope

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 159


Haller doubtless used his microscope mainly for anatomy.

He rarely used the microscope in embryology, since he was worried about optical distortions.

To watch the hen’s egg for hours he preferred a free-standing magnifying glass.

This left his hands free to take notes and to intervene on the egg.

Contact with the scholars of Europe and management of knowledge

The Great Scholar

Haller’s accomplishments were based on hard work, a systematic approach and original research.

During his lifetime Haller wrote 15,000 letters, 25,000 pages of mainly scientific texts and 9,000 reviews.

Haller organised his extensive knowledge with the help of notes and summaries.

These documents helped him in his publications and in working out areas for future research.

Hallers Tintenfass

Johann Friedrich Funk I

Haller’s inkwell

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 160


For Haller reading and writing were inseparable from each other.

Throughout his life Haller made critical summaries of what he had read.

In this way he continually expanded his knowledge.

The writing equipment of Roche marble bears Haller’s favourite butterfly motif, symbol of change and continuity.

Handschriftliche Auszüge

Albrecht von Haller, 1730–1750

Handwritten excerpts

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 24


The volume contains summaries of anatomical books.

Haller used tabs made of playing cards to classify the knowledge he gained from reading.

He kept records of his own research, and made tabs for them as well.

In his publications he made a critical comparison between what he had read and his own results.

Hallers Zettelsammlung

Albrecht von Haller, 1777

Haller’s collection of notes

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 89


These paper notes are said to have been on Haller’s desk when he died.

Haller used them to note new insights from the latest literature, in order to incorporate them into new editions of his own writings.

Haller always emphasised that science advances inexorably.

The loose sheets are signs of ever increasing knowledge.

Kommentierte Bibliographie

Albrecht von Haller, Zurich, 1774–1777

Annotated bibliography

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller D 39


Haller wanted to improve researchers’ knowledge of the literature.

He complained that badly informed researchers produced old-fashioned and irrelevant knowledge.

He listed the entire literature on medicine and botany with commentaries in ten volumes.

Haller discussed 50,000 titles from antiquity up until his own day.

Hallers europaweites Korrespondenznetz

March 1771

Twelve letters in ten days

© Kartografie: Richard Stuber, Bern.


In his lifetime Haller wrote 15,000 letters – at least one a day.

But Haller also received about the same number.

Through his correspondence Haller was in touch with scholars all over Europe.

In March 1771 Haller received twelve letters from widely scattered points within ten days.

Schreibstube eines Arztes

Joseph Lander, 1761

A doctor’s study

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 2399


One of Haller’s correspondents in his study

The Bernese doctor J. F. von Herrenschwand hands the letter he has just finished to his wife for her to seal it.

Herrenschwand was a practising physician and the personal doctor of several European rulers.

n Haller’s final years he wrote to the sick man making various recommendations.

Reitsattel für Postsendungen


Saddle for post horses

© Museum für Kommunikation Bern


The post rider put the letters in the satchel at the front.

A good postal network meant that letters could be speedily exchanged throughout Europe.

Horses could be changed at the frequent post stations and the services were coordinated.

To save time, Haller handed in his letters shortly before the post left.

Haller is member of scientific societies all over Europe

The Great Scholar

Haller’s network included the scholars of all Europe.

In the middle of the 18th century, educated people throughout Europe were linked to each other through letters, journals and societies.

Haller’s network of correspondents was one of the largest of his time; it stretched from Moscow to Dublin and from Stockholm to Malaga.

In the course of his lifetime Albrecht von Haller was a member of 32 learned societies.

Akademie der Wissenschaften

St. Petersburg, 29th December 1776

Russian Academy of Sciences

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 97 (59)


Haller was a member of all the major scientific societies of Europe.

He was made a member of societies throughout Europe, from Edinburgh to St. Petersburg.

Some memberships came about through reciprocal recommendation.

For example, Haller obtained membership in Göttingen and Berlin for the director of the Botanical Gardens of Florence.

Royal College of Physicians

Edinburgh, 3rd November 1772

Royal College of Physicians

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 97 (49)


Edinburgh, 3rd November 1772

Royal College of Physicians

Società d’Agricoltura

Padua, 1st September 1773

Società d’Agricoltura

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 97 (52)


Padua, 1st September 1773

Società d’Agricoltura

Società Botanica Fiorentina

Florence, 27th December 1759

Società Botanica Fiorentina

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 97 (19)


Florence, 27th December 1759

Società Botanica Fiorentina

Medizinische Gesellschaft Paris

Paris, 18th January 1776

Société royale de médecine

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 97 (57)


Paris, 18th January 1776

Société royale de médecine

Königlich Schwedische Akademie

Stockholm (?), 1st September 1750

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, N Albrecht von Haller 96 (45)


Stockholm (?), 1st September 1750

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences


Haller made new demands on scientific journals.

Until then, in discussing their books scholars had encouraged each other and rarely expressed criticism.

Haller saw himself as a specialist in medicine, natural science and literature; he wrote critical reviews.

During his lifetime he discussed 9000 books written in ten languages.


Opium eases Haller’s pain in his sickness

Later Years

Only by using opium could Haller avoid pain as he worked on his last articles.

When the pain in his urinary tract got worse, Haller reluctantly agreed to being treated with opium administered with an enema.

Haller carefully noted the effect of the opium on his body.

The treatment gave him some pain-free hours, which he used for countless publication projects.

Bericht über die Opium-Wirkung

Albrecht von Haller, Göttingen, 1777

Account of the effects of opium

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Haller C 29


Haller had to keep increasing the opium dose and became dependent.

With scientific precision he described the effect of the opium on his body.

Haller noted the euphoria induced and the subsequent despondency.

What was decisive for him was that he did not lose his memory or his mental faculties.


Emperor Joseph II visits Haller at home and snubs the Bernese government

Emperor Joseph II

In Bern Emperor Joseph II visited only Haller; he ignored the Bernese government.

On his return journey from France to Vienna, Emperor Joseph II stopped off in Bern.

Members of the Bernese government wished to pay the emperor their respects.

However, the emperor honoured no one but the scholar Haller, paying him a visit in his study.

Hallers Wohnhaus Inselgasse 5

Bern, Model 1936

Haller’s house, Inselgasse 5

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 25801


High above the Aare with an uninterrupted view of the Gurten and the Alps

Albrecht von Haller lived here from 1775 until his death in 1777.

The elegant town house with its broad south-facing terrace was built at the beginning of the 18th century.

Today the address of the house, which was demolished in 1911/12, would be Kochergasse 5, the Hotel Bellevue.

Der alte Haller

unknown painter, 2nd half of the 18th century

Haller as an old man

© Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 5727


The small portrait shows Haller in an informal gown and wearing a cap.

This is how Haller was dressed even when he received Emperor Joseph II at his home.

The character study by an unknown hand shows an old gentleman with somewhat blurred features.

But the alert expression indicates a still lively mind.


unknown painter, before December 1777

Characteristic profile

© Privatbesitz, Foto: Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 2420


The water colour shows Haller in an informal gown and cap during his last illness.

The artist portrays Haller in profile, with pointed features.

The physiognomist Lavater had described Haller’s profile as the “Archetype for Scholars”.

The sceptical Haller responded that Lavater had certainly recognised his intellectual gifts from his writings rather than from his profile.

Emperor Joseph II

In Bern Emperor Joseph II visited only Haller; he ignored the Bernese government.

On his return journey from France to Vienna, Emperor Joseph II stopped off in Bern.

Members of the Bernese government wished to pay the emperor their respects.

However, the emperor honoured no one but the scholar Haller, paying him a visit in his study.


Sigmund Freudenberger, Bern, 1773


© Privatbesitz, Foto: Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 2407E


The great scholar at the ripe old age of 65

Freudenberger painted the portrait as the basis for printed reproductions.

Haller sent it to the engraver Bause in Leipzig with the comment “People say it is a good picture and a good likeness”.

The Order of the Polar Star, which Haller did not receive until 1776, was added subsequently.

Ohne Nordstern-Orden

Unknown painter, after 1773, possibly late 19th c.

Without the Order of the Polar Star

© Private property, Foto: Burgerbibliothek Bern, Neg. 3995


The small copy clearly follows Freudenberger’s portrait.

It was exhibited in the Bern City Library in 1877 for the 100th anniversary of Haller’s death.

Since the Order is missing, the picture could have been painted before 1776, copied directly from the Freudenberger portrait.

But it might have been done later on the basis of an unknown copy.

9. The Death of Haller


Haller dies aged 69 from an ailment of the urinary tract


Emperor Joseph II buys Haller’s library and has it taken to the Habsburg-ruled city of Milan


Josephinum in Wien: Emperor Joseph II establishes a teaching collection with anatomical wax models

After Haller’s death his entire library was sold.

Albrecht von Haller died in 1777 on December 12 from an ailment of the urinary tract.

Haller’s estate included one of the biggest private libraries of the 18th century.

Because of a lack of interest in Bern, his son Gottlieb Emanuel Haller arranged for the entire library to be sold to Emperor Joseph II.

Wachspräparat der Kopfgefässe

Paolo Mascagni i.a., Florence, ca. 1785

The blood vessels in the head

© Wien, Josephinum, Inv. 152


Haller’s Atlas was an important source for the wax models.

The collection in Vienna contains more than 1,000 items.

The preparations were made by experienced anatomists, who made top quality models on the basis of the best illustrations of the time.

The presentation of the vessels was taken over unaltered from Haller’s Atlas.

Grabdenkmal für Haller

Salomon Gessner, Zürich, after 1777

Funerary monument to Haller

© Private property Werner Siegenthaler, Wetzikon


A fictitious monument illustrates the esteem in which Haller was held.

The simple monument set in idyllic surroundings symbolises the contrast between nature and culture.

Gessner’s picture reflects essential aspects of Haller’s intellectual make-up.

But Haller never had a real monument; not even his tomb survives.

Büste Albrecht von Hallers

Plaster cast after S. Caldelari, 1803

Bust of Albrecht von Haller

© Bernisches Historisches Museum, Inv. 20943


The Paris-based sculptor Sebastian Caldelari portrayed Haller as a roman scholar.

Haller’s son Rudolf Emanuel commissioned a marble bust of his father in 1803.

For a short time the bust stood in the Botanical Garden but was soon replaced by a bronze cast.

The example displayed here is one of a number of plaster casts.

Wyttenbach als Alpenforscher

Pieter Recco, Bern, 1818

Wyttenbach as an alpine researcher

© Bern, Naturhistorisches Museum, Inv. 120 1003 10


Encouraged by Haller, Wyttenbach became a well-known alpine researcher.

Interested travellers to the Alps, including Goethe, visited Pastor Wyttenbach in Bern.

Gentian, rosalia beetle and crystal indicate Wyttenbach’s interests as a collector.

Caldelari’s bust of Haller can be seen in the background.