Kellner, David

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Kellner, David

(b. Gotha, germany, midseventeenth century; d. [?])

medicine, chemistry.

Little is known about the life of the physician and metallurgist David kellner; indeed, even eighteenth century reference works were unable to furnish biographical information concerning him. Although Kellner wrote a comedy that in form and content quite met the standards of German baroque theater, he is nowhere mentioned by historians of German literature. Furthermore, there is no secondary literature of any value that deals with his importance as a physician or—and here the omission is more surprising—with his contribution to the development of specialized literature in the field of metallurgy.

Kellner studied medicine in Helmstedt when the renowned physician and polymath Hermann Conring taught there. He was undoubtedly influenced by Conring, who waged violent battles against alchemy and esoteric medicine.

Kellner received his doctor’s degree in Helmstedt in 1670 (accordingly, his date of birth must be set in the mid-seventeenth century). He wrote two surgical dissertations, De ossium constitutione naturali et praeternaturali and De empyemate. He dedicated the second of these, a work on festering wounds, to Johann langguth, a physician in the service of Duke Ernst of Saxony. It is possible that Langguth advanced him in his scientific work.

Kellner later worked in Nordhausen. In the majority of his own writings, as well as in those he edited, he signed himself as “Practitioner in the Imperial Free City of Nordhausen, and Body and Court Physician of Royal Prussia, princely Saxonly, and the County of Stolberg.” Beyond this he left no references to himself, except for a remark in the dedication to the reader in his Schenkeldiener (1690). He relates there that he wrote the book in 1683 when he was with Duke Heinrich, his prince and overlord, in Römhild (Franconia). It was dedicated to the surgeon and barber of Gotha, the city of the prince’s residence, Johann Scheib, whom kellner calls his friend and patron. The Schenkeldiener is a reference work on bone injuries and includes prescriptions as well as advice on diagnosis and therapy.

The names of the scholars with whom kellner associated are not known. In his works he cites, in the traditional manner, only ancient or older German authors, with the exception of famous Kameralisten such as Johann joachim Becher and Wilhelm von Schroder. The latter’s Fürstliche Schatz-und Rentkammer (“Princely Treasury and Revenue Office”) is the opening chapter of a work on mining and saltworks that Kellner edited.

Kellner’s interest in scientific writing manifested itself mainly in the field of metallurgical chemistry. He wished above all to free this literature, and indeed all scientific publication, from the fantasies of alchemists. Toward this end he wrote for a lay audience and for future scientists, rather then for an exclusive circle of initiates. In all, the number of writings by other authors that he collected and edited exceeded that of his own published works.

Kellner’s comedy about the “harmful Society of Alchemists” (1700) displays a fertile inventiveness that is typical of the baroque. In the play he excoriates alchemy. The climax is a scene in which seven alchemists mix, cook, and toil—to no apparent purpose—in the kitchen of a baron who has been taken in by their promises.

Kellner himself once fell under suspicion: he was accused of being one of the “chemical heretics.” He was obliged to defend himself in an apologetic, but none the less polemical, “Epistle to the Unnamed Authors of the German Purgatory of Refining.” Nonetheless, among those who wrote on science in his time, Kellner was one of the more serious authors and was certainly so considered by his contemporaries.

This Judgment is justified by the tenor of most of Kellner’s writings. They were meant to be, as their titles indicate, contributions to the science of assaying. Kellner sought to state, as clearly as possible, prescriptions and methods for experimentation. He asserted, however, that “it is highly necessary for all who are devoted to chemistry and medicine, and not just for those whose own profession is metal assaying, to know what is contained in the mineral kingdom, and how it might be purified, smelted, and even improved.”


I. Original Works. Among them are De ossium constitutione naturali et praeternaturali. De empyemate (Helmstedt, 1670), medical diss.; Curieuser Schenkeldiener (Frankfurt-Leipzig, 1690) ; Die durch seltsame Einbilding und Betriegerei schaden bringende Alchymisten-Gesellschaft in einem nützlichen Lustspiele vorgestellet (Frankfurt-Leipzig, 1700); Hochnutzbar und bewahrte edle Bierbraukunst, mit einem Anhang über Wein und Essig (Leipzig-Gotha, 1690; 2nd ed., Leipzig-Eisenach, 1710); Ars separatoria oder Scheidekunst (Leipzig, 1693; 2nd ed., enlarged by several new experiments, entitled Erneuerte Scheidekunst, Chemnitz, 1710; 3rd ed., Chemnitz, 1727).

II. Secondary Literature. See also Johann Bernhard Horn, Synopsis metallurgica oder Anleitung zur Probierkunst (Gotha, 1690); Praxis metallica curiosa oder Schmelzproben (Nordhausen, 1701); Ulysses Aldrovandus, Synopsis musaei metallici (Leipzig, 1701) ; Kurz abgefasstes Berg- and Salzwerks-Bath (Frankfurt-Leipzig, 1702); and L. Martin Schmuck et al., Chymische Schatzkammer (Leipzig, 1702).

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