As a descendent of German ancestors you knew that you came from people who have always strived to make important contributions to the world. Even though you are not a composer, inventor, artist, or author your immediate ancestors also accomplished a great deal. Many of them came to the United States with very little and look what they and their children have done in the following generations. By reading what I have put together about these notable Germans think about what you have done and what your children and grandchildren still have left to do. Maybe one of them will be the next Beethoven, Einstein, or Goethe.
Johann Sebastian Bach: 1685-1750. He came from a family of about 60 to 70 musicians. He is considered the genius of baroque music which is a highly complex and dramatic style. Baroque music emphasized continual motion.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: 1714-1788. Carl was the son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He wrote in all the musical forms of his day and had a great influence on Joseph Haydn and Ludwig von Beethoven.
Johann Christian Bach: 1735-1782. Johann was the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is best known for his chamber music, symphonies, and operas in the Italian style.
Ludwig von Beethoven: 1770-1827. He was one of the greatest composers in musical history. His most famous works include the Eroica, fifth, Pastorale, and ninth symphonies, an opera, Fidelio; and his impressive religious composition Missa solemnis.
Johannes Brahms: 1833-1897. Brahms was a great German composer. Since about 1880, he has been regarded as the leading composer of romantic symphonies, concertos, and chamber music. He also ranks among the greatest of all creators of German art songs referred to as lieder.
Christoph Willibald Gluck: 1714-1787. He reformed opera in the 1700’s. He eliminated the mire singing that had dominated opera. He tried to achieve a balance between the music and dramatic part of an opera. He used an orchestra instead of a traditional harpsichord to accompany the singers. The orchestra provided more opportunities to develop an opera’s dramatic qualities. George
Frideric Handel: 1685-1759. Handel is known today mainly for his musical compositions called oratorios. His famous oratorio Messiah is one of the most popular works in music. He also composed much orchestral music such as chamber music and solo music for the harpsichord.
Martin Luther: 1483-1546. Martin Luther was the leader of the Reformation, a religious movement that led to the birth of Protestantism. His role in the history of music is almost as significant as his contributions to German literature. His hymns opened a new in music. His best known hymn was A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.
Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: 1887-1953. He was a composer, pianist, and conductor. He made his first public appearance as a pianist when he was age 9. He wrote his first music when he was age 10, and by the time he was a teen-ager he was a respected composer. We remember him best for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Johann Pachelbe: 1653-1706. He was a Baroque composer, organist and teacher who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque era.
Robert Alexander Schumann: 1810-1856. Some critics consider him the most important composer of the German Romantic Movement. He became best known for his brilliant piano compositions and beautiful songs.
Richard Strauss: 1864-1949. Richard Strauss is best known for a series of operas he composed to librettos (words) by the Austrian poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. He also became known as a composer of songs and instrumental works and as a conductor. Wilhelm
Richard Wagner: 1813-1883. He was a great composer who fundamentally changed European musical, literary, and theatrical life. He believed that the theater should be the center of a community’s culture rather than merely a place of entertainment.
Johannes Gutenberg: 1395?-1468? He invented the type mold, which made printing from movable metallic type practical for the first time. The inventions assured a sufficient supply of the letters. The magnificent Bible shows that he mastered every technical detail.
Gabriel Fahrenheit: 1686-1736. He was a physicist, who developed the Fahrenheit temperature scale. He also made the thermometer more accurate by using Mercury instead of alcohol in the thermometer tube. He determined three fixed temperatures 00 for the freezing point of ice, salt, and water, 320 for the freezing point of pure water; and 960 for the normal temperature of the human body.
Peter Henlein: He was a locksmith who lived in Nuremburg. The watch he invented was really so heavy that it had to be hung from a belt around the waist. Before his invention time was told by clocks that used heavy weights. He invented a mainspring as the source of power to turn the wheels.
Wilhelm Röntgen: 1845-1923. Röntgen was a physicist who produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength know today as x-rays. Karl Benz: 1844-1929.
Karl Benz was an engineer, who pioneered in building motor-driven vehicles. He founded Benz & Company in Mannheim to manufacture gas engines. He started to build his first gas engine in 1878, and produced his first motor vehicle in 1885. His three wheeled car had an electric ignition, a water-cooled engine, and a differential gear, all of which are still common in automobiles today. He also designed a float-type carburetor and a transmission system.
Gottlieb Daimler: 1834-1900. He was an engineer who developed an internalcombustion engine light enough to power an automobile. He worked with Wilhelm Maybach for years and produced a motor-bicycle in 1885. They made a four wheeled car in 1886. The Daimler Company was formed in 1890 and produced the Mercedes.
Albert Einstein: 1879-1955. Einstein was one of the greatest scientists of all time. We know him best for his theory of relativity. The theory of relativity revolutionized scientific thought. This led to the development of the atomic bomb.
Werner von Braun: 1912-1972. He was a physicist and astronautics engineer who became one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology. He is sometimes said to be the preeminent rocket engineer of the 20th century. We regard him as the father of the American space program.
Jacob Ludwig: 1785-1863: and Wilhelm Karl Grimm: 1786-1863: The brothers are known for their collection of German fairy tales and for their work in establishing the German Dictionary, which served as a later model for dictionary writers.
Jacob Grimm is also known for his great work, the German Grammar. Some of the most famous tales are “Hansel and Gretel,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Snow-White,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “Puss-inBoots.”
Thomas Mann: 1875-1955. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1929. His writings combine wisdom, humor, and philosophical thought. His intellectual scope, psychological insight, and critical awareness of cultural and political conditions made him one of the foremost humanistic writers of his time.
Heinrich Heine: 1797-1856. Heinrich Heine ranks among the most popular writers in German literature. Several of his poems are so well known they are considered part of German folklore. His poetry has been set to music by composers such as Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: 1749-1832. He was a novelist and playwright. He is among the most important and influential writers of modern European literature. His masterpiece is the play Faust. He was also a leading thinker and scientist. The depth and originality of his literary works and the variety of his intellectual pursuits make him the central figure of German classical and romantic literature.
Johann Christoff Schiller: 1759-1805. Schiller ranks second only to Goethe among the leading figures of German literature, and no other German compares to him as a playwright. He was a master of dramatic construction and character portrayal. His dramas are pleas for human freedom and dignity. These writings inspired German liberals in their fight for liberty during the early 1800’s and during the Revolution of 1848.
Betolt Brecht: 1898-1956. He was an important German playwright. He tried to show that social forces determine man’s nature, and that the evils of capitalism brutalize the poor and make the rich corrupt.
Heinrich von Kleist: 1777-1811. Kleist was a writer of plays and stories often dealing with the problems of trust and faith between people. His characters often suffer from confused feelings and find themselves in violent or desperate situations.
Albrecht Dürer: 1471-1528. Albrecht Dürer was a painter, engraver, and designer. He was one of the foremost artists of his country during the Renaissance. He was perhaps the most original creative German artist. He was an influence on future generations of artists in northern Europe.
Lucas Cranach the Elder: 1472-1553. He was one of the leading painters of the Renaissance. He painted many portraits of the great men of his time. His portraits include King Christian II of Denmark, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Martin Luther, and Philipp Melanchthon.
Matthias Grünewald: 1475?-1528? Grünewald was one of the greatest artists of the German Renaissance. He is known as the painter of the Isenheim Altarpiece, one of the world’s greatest paintings. It is composed of a number of panels which are hinged together so as to swing open and reveal sculptured figures behind them.
Hans Holdbein, the Younger: 1497?-1543. He was one of the greatest artists of the German Renaissance. He is especially famous for his paintings of King Henry VIII of England and several of his wives. He painted a number of the great men he knew such as Erasmus, Philipp Melanchthon, and Sir Thomas More.