Science Natural sciences in the Gymnasium of Elbląg
The Gymnasium of Elbląg was founded in the 16th century and, like other schools established at that time in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, was humanistic in nature. The curriculum was based on learning Latin and Greek. Mastery of the classical languages was a prerequisite for further studies in philosophy, theology or law. The resources of the Gymnasium library (which was ceremonially inaugurated in 1601) reflect the school’s profile. It was dominated by editions of classical works, grammar books and language manuals, as well as various editions of the Bible and religious and moral treatises. From the beginning, however, the library also acquired books that enabled students to study the exact and natural sciences. Even the oldest layer of the collection contains interesting books on mathematics, geography, astronomy or botany. Graduates of the Gymnasium who took up university studies (in nearby Königsberg, elsewhere in the Holy Roman Empire, but also in France or the Netherlands) often acquired books on new scientific discoveries, and sometimes they later donated them to the library of the Gymnasium.
Over time, interest in the natural sciences grew, and in the 18th century they began to play a greater role in the curriculum. Natural scientists trained at foreign universities, such as Jakub Woit (1698-1764), took up teaching posts at the Gymnasium and began to apply new didactic methods that no longer relied solely on explaining texts but also on observation and experimentation. However, the reform that introduced permanent science teaching did not take place until the very end of the 18th century under the rectorships of Otto Herwig and his successor Johann Wilhelm Süvern (although even then it met with opposition from the city council!).
Manuscript excerpts and drawings from the botanical manual of Gottlieb Wilhelm Bischoff, Lehrbuch der Botanik (1. ed. 1834), written in Königsberg in 1838/1839 (sygn. RS 82, RS 86, RS 87).