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Professor Karl Ludwig Meissner Mechanics and Civil Engineering Lectures (1849-1850)

Identifier: SC MS 0201

Scope and Contents

The manuscript contains a single bound book. The handwriting in the German Gothic script (Frakturschrift) is difficult to read but the marginalia and equations offer an insight to the educational materials being taught in a premier technical school in the German empire as well as the scope of knowledge the professors thought necessary for their students to learn. A section of the theory on arches (page 130-131) has been translated into English by Lehigh’s civil engineering professor emeritus, Dr. Alexis Ostapenko.


  • 1849-1850


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Biographical / Historical

Not much is available about the student R. Nachwitz, Prof. Dr. Ruff or Professor Schneider, however, there is some information about Karl Ludwig Meissner (1809-1868). He was a well-known Austrian engineer who distinguished himself at an early age. He was educated at the polytechnical institute in Vienna. Barely 21 years old, he became the overall director of engineering in 1830 for the city of Vienna. In 1836 he was the first Austrian engineer to attempt the building of Austria’s first locomotive railroad, the Kaiser Ferdinand. Following this success he made a professional study tour to England and Belgium and upon return to Vienna named head engineer to build railroad lines from Vienna to Brunn and Lundenburg to Prerau. In 1841 he received an invitation to be professor at the Collegium Carolinum Braunschweig (German Reich). He accepted the position and also became the technical director to construct the Braunschweig State railroad designated the Braunschweig-Aschersleben-Wolfenbüttel-Harzburg. This railroad followed Meissner’s design for mountain locomotive and railway for an incline ratio of 1.40. This design ratio was the first of its type. In 1851 Meissner was recalled to Vienna by the commerce minister, Baron Bruck, to be general director for communication and further improved the Austrian railway system. Meissner’s service in research for safety in communication knowledge was many times honored. In 1865 he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Iron Crown by Emperor Franz-Joseph. Meissner died in 1868 as general inspector of the Austrian railway.


1 notebook, 29 cm x 21 cm x 2.5 cm

Language of Materials



This manuscript is a set of class notes presumed taken by a student (R. Nachwitz?) attending lectures by Professors Schneider and Karl Ludwig Meissner on Civil Engineering topics given at the Collegium Carolinum in Braunschweig, Germany during 1849-50. Topics covered in technical mechanics included effect of friction, strength of materials, mechanics of gear teeth, analysis of fire hoses and nozzles, vibration in structures. The general topic of “Baukunst” (Art of Building/ Architecture) was covered by Prof. Meissner and dealt with design of actual structures, emphasis on railroad engineering such as embankments and arch bridges. The marginalia in the text illustrates many interesting structures and equations. The handwritten text is in Frakturschrift. The lectures provide an excellent insight into the extent of German engineering education the students received during a critical period in the Collegium Carolinum –Braunschweig, the first such German institution founded in 1745 devoted solely to technical topics.


This manuscript is a bound notebook 29 cm X 21 cm x 2.5 cm. The covers are a mottled dull green and black paper on board with a dull green buckram spine binding. The spine has seven slender gold bands and in German Gothic (Frakturschrift) print the title: “Mechanik. Allgemeine Baukunst” (Mechanics. General Architecture). The German print on the spine is separated by a gold floral swag. There are approximately 184 blank pages. The free front endpaper upper right corner is apparently signed by the student making the notes, R. Nachwitz, who attended the lectures during three semesters – Summer 1849 and Winter semester 1849-1850. The first 63 pages begin with general lectures notes on technical mechanics given by a Professor Schneider dated Summer Semester 1849 and Static Mechanics in the Winter Semester 1849/50. Each page side is hand numbered in the upper left or right corners from 1 – 102. The pages are written in black ink in the German Gothic script (Frakturschrift). In the margins are little illustrations of cogs, wheels, weights and pulley systems, trajectories for guns. There is a tiny tissue insert between page 84 and 85 illustrating gun sighting. Following are four blank pages which lead to a different handwritten text signed after eight pages (16 closely written sides) by a Prof. Dr. Ruff. There are no numbers on these pages. In the text are some equations. On the page immediately following is a title page “Allgemeines Baukunst vorgetragen von dem Herrn Professor Meissner in Sommersemester 1849” (General Architecture delivered by Mr. Professor Meissner in Summer semester 1849). In pencil is a notation for [Karl Ludwig Meissner at Coll. Carolinum – Berlin 163 pp.] The paging begins with 1 in upper right corner and is continuous to 160. The handwritten text is in black ink with marginalia of elaborate joints, roof rafters, masonry foundations, railroad engineering especially embankments. On page 62 is a small printed illustration of a log block house and following pages have many equations and tabulations. On page 129 is written “Fortsetzung in Anbindungsemester 1849/50 (Continuation into Carry over semester 1849/50). Pages 130 and 131 have been translated into English by Lehigh University Emeritus Professor Dr. Alexis Ostapenko who attributed these pages to the “theory of vaults/arches.” The pages up to page 160 include the theory of vaulting (arches) with many examples. The next three pages of text have no numbers, however, these pages seem to present civil engineering summations of aspects of buildings and foundations. The remaining pages are blank.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase: Palinurus Antiquarian Books, 2008


No additions anticipated.

Related Materials

Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie

Physical Description

1 notebook, 29 cm x 21 cm x 2.5 cm


Finding Aid of the Professor Karl Ludwig Meissner Mechanics and Civil Engineering Lectures (1849-1850)
William Ying
April 25, 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English, German

Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
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