Thursday 6 February 2014

The Infant Scholar of Lübeck

Christian Heinrich Heineken (Lübeck, Germany, 6th February 1721 – Lübeck, Germany, 27th June 1725)

Christian Heinrich Heineken by Johann Balthasar Probst, 1724
Christian Heinrich Heineken by Johann Balthasar Probst, 1724

Today's guest is a little boy who lived a short but remarkable life. Delighting the people of Europe with  his intelligence and talents, the infant scholar of Lübeck, was a most extraordinary German child.

Christian was born in to painter and architect Paul Heineken and his wife, Catharina. Before the little boy was one year old he was already able to name items within his home and had already embarked on learning to read. A fluent speaker and reader in German by the time of his first birthday, Christian had polished off the bible in Latin by the age of three. 

Not content with just reading the writings of other people, in 1724 Christian wrote his own History of Denmark and read it at court before King Frederick IV of Denmark. Those who met the child were delighted by his charm and thrilled at his intelligence, and tales of his genius spread across Europe.

The Heineken family and Christian's wet nurse, Sophie Hildebrandt, undertook a tour of the continent and Christian showed off his skills and keen mind. However, the strain of travelling began to take a toll on the party and as Christian was weaned and began to eat more grains, his health began to deteriorate.

Celebrated for his short life, Christian died at the age of four of what is now believed to have been coeliac disease. However, in a final twist, he apparently predicted his own death months before the day came.


Mari Christian said...

What a short but brilliant little life.

Catherine Curzon said...

Poor wee lad!