“It is no more possible to make a restrictive inventory of the visible than it is to catalogue the possible usages of a language or even its vocabulary and devices. The eye is an instrument that moves itself, a means which invents its own ends; it is that which has been moved by some impact of the world, which it then restores to the visible through the offices of an agile hand” (“L’Oeil et l’esprit,” Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 1961).

Short Sketch of Goethe 1749 – 1832

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born on August 28, 1749, in Frankfurt, Germany, an imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations. He studied law at the universities of Leipzig and Strasbourg and gained European fame with a novel in letterform called Die Leiden des Jungen Werthers (1774). At the age of twenty-five, Goethe’s literary success prompted an invitation from Duke Karl August to visit the small duchy of Saxony-Weimar. Here he stayed, soon becoming an administrator in the economic, political, social, and cultural affairs of the state. Goethe became Germany’s most famous writer, known for the breadth of his knowledge and the universality of his genius. He was a prolific writer, ranging from essays for his research in geology, comparative anatomy, botany, and color theory; to dramas about human rights, political intrigue, and cultural wars; and novels about the aesthetic development of individuality in an emerging middle class. Many of his intellectual and personal experiences are woven together in his most famous work, Faust, begun in the restless period of his youth and completed a year before he died at age 81. This dramatic poem of 12,111 lines was written in two parts, the first focused on the life of a scholar turned adventurer in the small world of provincial Germany, and the second on the mature scientist engaging technology for economic gain at the frontiers of the industrial revolution. When he died on March 22, 1832, Goethe left posterity a collected edition of forty volumes edited in his own hand (1827-30), with instructions for the posthumous publication of twenty additional volumes (1832-42). He also left an archive of unpublished notes and manuscripts, a museum of scientific instruments, works of art, cabinets of flora, fauna, and minerals, and a personal library of over five thousand books.