Beckmann Collection

One of Göttingen University's oldest collections is the Modellkammer. Of the original set of items it contained, 25 are still present today. Mathematicians such as Abraham Gotthelf Kästner (1719 - 1800) took charge of this collection, which, augmented and maintained by craftsmen in the employ of the university, was used and admired by numerous professors, students and visitors. Until well into the 20th century, models were regarded as outstanding vehicles for the communication of knowledge. The approximately 150 models that once formed part of the collection served first and foremost as demonstration tools used for the training of senior civil servants in the areas of engineering and mining, agricultural and water engineering. The Modellkammer thus fitted naturally into the reform concept of Göttingen University, which - fully in line with the ideas of Leibniz - maintained the link to the practical domain. It is therefore hardly surprising that one of the most precious items in the Modellkammer was Leibniz' calculating machine. Alongside the models, the collection also contained scientific equipment for measurement of land and for use in astronomy.
A highly reputed lecturer at Göttingen University, economist Johann Beckmann (1739 - 1811) is frequently associated with the Modellkammer. Beckmann indeed made intensive use of the collection not only in the context of his technology lectures, but also to prepare his students for excursions. These study trips were designed to help them grasp practical aspects of the mining operations carried out in the Harz region, or of business enterprises run in the vicinity of Göttingen. The name Modellkammer refers to a place rather than to the collection itself. In practice, though, the items were distributed throughout the entire university. This remained the case until the founding of the Academic Museum, in which rooms were made available to house the models.

Portrait of Johann Beckmann, with kind permission of the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel

Vier-Spezies-Rechenmaschine (Stepped Reckoner) by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, with kind permission of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek, Hanover

Model of a Harz lead melt furnace from Beckmann?s Collection

Model of a pumping station driven by two undershot waterwheels; photograph: Oliver Zauzig