Document Type



History (Pitzer)

Publication Date

Summer 2000


Johann von Justi, Police, Cameralist, Chemistry


Johann von Justi, the foremost literary cameralist of his generation, served as chief police commissioner in Göttingen between 1755 and 1757. While in Göttingen, Justi offered lectures at the university on the “economic, police and cameral sciences.” He also arrested vagrants, wrote on chemistry, disciplined unruly students, conducted chemical experiments, supervised the pricing of Göttingen's staple goods, engaged in a public controversy with a prominent Berlin chemist, edited and published a bi-weekly periodical (Göttingische Policey-Amts Nachrichien), and worked with the university's curator to refashion the academic structure of the sciences. Taken together, these various activities reflected his broad vision for social and academic change, a vision with important implications for the form and content of the sciences. Drawing on archival material in Göttingen, on articles from the Policey-Amts Nachrichten, and on Justi's other cameralist and chemical writings, I use his everyday experiences as a local police official to explore the meaning of his chemical work. I argue that Justi's chemistry was suffused with the cameralist dreams and ambitions of a small-town police commissioner. It is what I call police chemistry.

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© 2000 Cambridge University Press

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