Basedow, John Bernard

, an author of some merit on the subject of education, was born at Hamburgh in 1723. His father appears to have been a person of a rigid temper, and so frequent in correcting his son with severity, as to drive him from home for a time, during which the boy served as a domestic in the house of a land-surveyor at Holstein. Being, however, persuaded to return, he was | placed at the public school at Hamburgh, where he made himself respected by his talents, and the aid he was enabled to give to his indolent schoolfellows. When advanced to the higher class, he attended the lectures of professors Richey and Reimarus, from whose instructions, particularly those of Reimarus, he derived great improvement: but he afterwards allowed that he did not pay a regular attention to the sciences, and passed much of his time with indolent and dissolute companions. He had little disposition for study, and remained for some time undetermined in the choice of a profession. His father was ambitious that he should be a clergyman, and the means being provided, he went to Leipsic in 1744, to prosecute his studies particularly in theology. Here he continued for two years, attending the lectures of professor Crusius, who had begun to philosophize on religion; and these lectures, with the writings of Wolf, to which he also applied, induced a sceptical disposition, which more or less prevailed in all his writings and opinions during his life. In 1749, he was appointed private tutor to the son of a gentleman at Hoistein, and this situation gave him an opportunity of bringing to the test of experience, the plan of an improved method of education, which he had, for some time, in contemplation. The attempt succeeded to his wishes, and his pupil, who was only seven years old, when put under him, and could merely read the German language, became able in the space of three years, not only to read Latin authors, but to translate from the German into that language, and also to speak and write it with a degree of fluency. The young gentleman had also made considerable progress in the principles of religion and morals, in history, geography, and arithmetic.

In 1753, Basedow was chosen professor of moral philosophy and belles lettres at the university of Sorde, where he enjoyed further opportunities of pursuing his favourite object. While in this station, he published several works which were well received, particularly a treatise on practical philosophy, for all classes, in which the particulars of his plan are fully explained; and a grammar of the German language. From Sorde, he was nominated to a professorship at Altona, and now employed his leisure hours in communicating to the world the result of his theological studies, but the world was so little prepared to forsake the principles of their forefathers, that he met with the -most | strenuous opposition from every quarter. Among his most distinguished opponents were the rev. Messrs. Gosse, Winkler, and Zimmerman, who represented his doctrines as hostile to religion and morals, while the magistrates prohibited the publishing and reading of his works, and the populace were ready to attack his person. His biographer praises the firmness with which he supported all this, rejoicing in the hopes, that Germany would one day be enlightened with his doctrines, and these hopes have certainly been in a considerable degree realized. The rest of his life appears to have been spent in controversies with his opponents, and in endeavours to establish public schools of instruction on his new plan, in all which he met with some encouragement from men of rank and influence, but not sufficient to enable him to carry any of his plans into execution. With respect to his scheme of education, if we may judge from the outline in our authority, there was nothing of mystery or invention in it. He entertained the idea that the compulsive methods, so generally adopted, are calculated to retard the progress of improvement, while the pupil was under the care of his tutor, and to give him a disgust for learning after he has escaped from the rod, and said that early education is, in some cases, of too abstracted a nature; and, in others, that it is confined merely to words as preparatory to the knowledge of things; while, in reality, the useful knowledge of things ought to be made preparatory to the knowledge of words. Conformably to this idea, he attempted to adapt every branch of science to the capacity of his scholars, by making judgment keep pace with memory, and by introducing them to an engaging familiarity with the objects of pursuit. This he attempted to effect, by the invention, due arrangement, and familar explanation of figures and prints, of which young minds are naturally fond; and by means of which, they have a more perfect impression of an object than the most elaborate description could possibly give. For those who were further advanced, he called in the aid of different species of mechanism, and different models, by means of which the pupil might form precise ideas, obtain accurate knowledge, and, in some instances, acquire address in a manner correspondent with that love of active amusements which characterizes youth.

After many unsuccessful efforts to establish a school which he called his “Philanthropinum,” he finally | reliuqnished it, owing to quarrels among the teachers, which afforded no very striking proof of the superior excellence of his system. He then endeavoured to find relief in the bottle, and this hurried him into a train of conduct which completed the destruction of his reputation. He died at Magdeburgh in 1790. His works on religions subjects are very numerous, but little known out of Germany. 1

1 Biog. Anecdotes of Basedow, published at Magdeburgh, 1791, and abridged in the Month, Rev, vol. VII. N. S. Saxii Ouomasticon, vol. VIII,