John William Gerard de Brahm

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John William Gerard de Brahm
Born 1718
Koblenz
Died c.1799
Philadelphia
Nationality German
Occupation Cartographer, engineer and mystic

John William Gerard de Brahm (1718–c.1799) was a German cartographer, engineer[1] and mystic.

He was born in Koblenz, the eighth child of a court musician employed by the Elector of Trier.[2] He became "Captain Engineer" in the Imperial Army, but after his marriage (to Wilhelmina) emigrated to the British colony of Georgia. In the 1750s they baptized children at the "Independent Congregational Churches" in Stoney Creek and later Charleston, in present-day South Carolina.

In 1754 he was appointed by the British as surveyor general for Georgia Colony. In August 1756 he traveled to the Cherokee Overhill country on the banks of the Little Tennessee River as the engineer constructing Fort Loudoun. He is said to have been the most prolific mapmaker in the Southern Colonies in the late eighteenth century.[3] Formerly an ally of European colonisation, his contact with American Indians led him to despise European imperialism as a sin which would ultimately bring destruction to the world. He believed that the American Indians had been corrupted by the immorality of traders and their attempts to civilise them.[4] He was imprisoned in France by the American Revolutionary government, accused of being loyal to the British cause. From 1778 he resided in Britain; making a brief visit to his German homeland before settling in Philadelphia in 1791 where he converted to Quakerism. There his writings on Cosmography were inspired by the ideas of an earlier German mystic, Jacob Boehme. He perceived the eighteenth century carving up of lands for personal glory as a tyranny of reason.[5] He died in Philadelphia.

Works[edit]

  • Atlantic Pilot, (1772)
  • Time an Apparition of Eternity and Voice of the Everlasting Gospel, (1791-2)
  • Apocalyptic Gnomon Points out Eternity's Divisibility Rated with Time Pointed at by Gnomons Sidereal, (1795)

Legacy[edit]

De Brahm, derided by contemporaries, never managed to gain many followers to his religious thought. His criticism of dynastic politics and the aggression of nation-states as well as his anti-imperialist position was not well received in the intellectual climate of the early American Republic.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Toomey, Michael. "JOHN WILLIAM GERARD DE BRAHM". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Tennessee Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  2. ^ Louis De Vorsey, Pioneer charting of the gulf stream: The contributions of Benjamin Franklin and William Gerard de Brahm, 1976, Imago Mundi 28(1), pp 105-120.
  3. ^ Georgia land surveying history and law, Farris W. Cradle, University of Georgia Press, 1991
  4. ^ Paulett, Robert E. (2009). "The bewildering world of William de Brahm: an eighteenth-century map maker surveys the end of time". Eighteenth-Century Studies 42 (4): 481–99. doi:10.1353/ecs.0.0064. ISSN 1086-315X. 
  5. ^ Paulett, Robert E. (2009). "The bewildering world of William de Brahm: an eighteenth-century map maker surveys the end of time". Eighteenth-Century Studies 42 (4): 481–99. doi:10.1353/ecs.0.0064. ISSN 1086-315X. 

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