Johann Konrad Spangenberg was born in Homberg near Marburg on 21 January 1711 his father was an agronomist, his mother a pastor’s daughter. He first went to school in Homberg and at age fifteen was immatriculated at the University of Marburg in 1726. Following the wishes of his parents, he enrolled as a theology student. However, he took only few courses in theology, especially because he objected to the way moral theology was then taught at Marburg. It was Christian Wolff himself who suggested he switched towards mathematics. He completed his courses in philosophy under Wolff’s direction and started giving mathematical and philosophical instruction has early as in October 1728. In March 1737 he travelled to Erlangen and in October to Basel, where he stayed until February 1738 in order to work on mathematics with Johann Bernoulli. He specialized in algebra and gave well attended lectures in that discipline upon his return to Marburg in March 1738. In the aftermath of Wolff’s departure to Halle, in February 1741 he was appointed professor of philosophy at Marburg with the permission to teach all parts of philosophy, mathematics included. He gave his inaugural lecture, however, only a year later, in September 1742, on a strictly mathematical problem. He taught on pure and applied mathematics, but also on logic, metaphysics, ethics, politics, and natural law. He held the philosophy chair for twenty-four years, and was dean of the philosophical faculty in 1743, 1748, 1752, and 1757. At age fifty-five, in July 1765, he resigned from the University, sold most of his property, had the outcome be distributed among the needy, and retired from everything secular in order to commit himself in solitude to Jesus—an unusual case of Protestant aspiration to monasticism. He died on 19 December 1783.
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