Elli Heesch

*April 4, 1904 (Schleswig, Germany)
†September 18, 1993 (Bonn, Germany)

Elli Johanna Anna Heesch was born on 4 April 1904 in Schleswig as the daughter of Peter Heinrich and Bertha Heesch, née Herzer. She studied mathematics, physics and philosophy at Kiel University. Her teachers were Ernst Steinitz (mathematics), Otto Toeplitz (physics) and Heinrich Scholz (philosophy). Against the will of her parents Elli Heesch converted to the Catholic faith during her studies in 1924. For economic reasons she postponed her doctoral project for the time being and began the practical preparatory service for the teacher training examination at secondary schools at Easter 1929 by entering the district seminar in Bochum in Westphalia, where she passed the assessor examination with the title “with distinction” on 28 March 1930. She taught there until autumn 1931, after which she worked for half a year (until Easter 1932) at the Oberlyzeum of the Franciscan nuns of Nonnenwerth (Aloisianum). Elli Heesch received her doctorate degree at the philosophical faculty of the University of Münster on 30 May 1933. Heinrich Scholz was the examiner in philosophy, Heinrich Behnke in mathematics and Adolf Kratzer in physics. Scholz was also the supervisior and referee of her dissertation Grundzüge der Bolzano’schen Wissenschaftslehre. The work was published in the German journal Philosophisches Jahrbuch (1935, vol. 48).

Her path led her via the University of Tübingen to Innsbruck, hoping to habilitate. In the 1920s, Alfred Kastil was co-founder of the first Franz Brentano Archive, which he organized with the help of his assistant Ernst Foradori. Elli Heesch worked there from May 1933 to Easter 1934. In the following period she was in Prague, where she got in touch with members of the Vienna Circle, among them Otto Neurath and Rudolf Carnap. From March 1935 to Easter 1935 she worked in Warsaw for Jan Łukasiewicz, to whom she was invited almost daily. Shortly afterwards (in a letter to Neurath) she described these six weeks as the best time of her scientific carrier. However, she was unable to find a permanent position in philosophy. She returned to school. On July 1, 1946, she entered the novitiate of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the monastery of St. Adelheid in Bonn-Pützchen. Since 1949 Elli Heesch taught there at the Order’s own school and took her first vows in St. Adelheid on April 2, 1949. In 1951, she went to Hamburg with the new foundation of the Order, where she was director of the state-approved Catholic Sophie Barat Schule from 1957 to 1969. Then she moved to Munich for three years, where she fulfilled her duties as superior of the student residence until 1972. At the age of 68, at the suggestion of Prof. Dr. Ursula Lehr, she began studying gerontology, which led her to Bonn, Heidelberg and the USA. In July 1993 she was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit First Class.

At Arnold Sommerfeld’s request, she and her brother Heinrich Heesch worked out a transcript of Sommerfeld’s Lectures on Mechanics, later published as Vorlesungen über Theoretische Physik, Band 1: Mechanik (Leipzig 1943). In the preface Sommerfeld mentions Heinrich and Elli Heesch by name. Also worth mentioning is her lecture at the conference of the Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung from 14-19 September 1936 in Salzbrunn with the title “Gruppen mit vertauschbaren konjugierten Elementen.” In the annual report of the Deutschen Mathematiker Vereinigung 47 (1937), p. 10, there is an abridged version with reference to a more detailed presentation. Quite extravagant is her work “Psychische Wellen. Ein Versuch, seelische Vorgänge mit Hilfe wellentheoretischer Analogien zu deuten” from 1934, where the author tries to interpret psychological phenomena with the help of physical theories.

References

Heesch, E. (1933). Grundzüge der Bolzano’schen Wissenschaftslehre. Münster Phil. Diss, in: Philosophisches Jahrbuch der Görres-Gesellschaft, 48 (1935), 313–341.

Heesch, E. (1934a). „Psychische Wellen. Ein Versuch, seelische Vorgänge mit Hilfe wellentheoretischer Analogien zu deuten.” Die Tatwelt. Zeitschrift für Erneuerung des Geisteslebens 10, 65–83.

Heesch, E. (1934b). [Rez. v.:] „Bernard Bolzano und sein Kreis. Dargestellt mit erstmaliger Heranziehung der Nachlässe Bolzanos und seiner Freunde, von Eduard Winter. (Leipzig 1933, 288 Seiten)”, Kölnischen Volkszeitung vom 11. März (Literarische Blätter, 14).

Heesch, E. (1934c) [Rez. v.:] „Haecker, Theodor: Was ist der Mensch? Verlag Jakob Hegner, Leipzig 1934. 191 Seiten”, Kölnische Volkszeitung vom 22.5. (Literarische Blätter).

Heesch, E. (1935a) „Vom intellektuellen Gewissen”, Akademische Bonifatius-Korrespondenz, Organ zur Pflege des religiösen Lebens in der katholischen Studentenschaft, 1 (Mai), 23–26.

Heesch, E. (1935b) „Grundzüge der Bolzanoschen Wissenschaftslehre”, Philosophisches Jahrbuch, 48. Bd., 313–341.

Heesch, E. (1942) [Rez. v.:] „Heinrich Scholz [ord. Prof. an d. Univ. Münster], Metaphysik als strenge Wissenschaft. Köln, Staufen-Verl., 1941, 188 S.”, Deutsche Literaturzeitung, 63, Heft 19/20.

Heesch, E., Heesch, H., Loef J. (1944). System einer Flächenteilung und seine Anwendung zum Werkstoff-und Arbeitssparen. Moosburg: Pichelmayer.

Archival Records

Universitätsarchiv Münster Promotionsakte der Elli Heesch Nr. 2737, Philosophische Fakultät.

Nordrhein-Westfälisches Staatsarchiv Münster Personalakten A Nr. Schulkollegium H – 158: Heesch, Elli, Lebenslauf, 1 S. handschriftlich, undatiert [1935].

Provinzialat Sacré Coeur, Hamburg: — Heesch, Elli, Lebenslauf (maschinengeschr. Abschrift) dat. 12.1.1952. — Nachruf der Ordensfrauen vom Heiligen Herzen Jesu in St. Adelheid Pützchen auf Schwester Dr. Elli Heesch, gest. am 18.9.1993, 3 S., undat.

Briefwechsel Otto Neurath – Elli Heesch: Philosophischen Archiv der Universität Konstanz, Otto-Neurath-Sammlung (Inv. Nr. 243).

Secondary Literature

Bigalke , Hans G. (1988). Heinrich Heesch: Kristallgeometrie, Parkettierungen, Vierfarbenforschung. Basel/Bostern/Berlin: Birkhäuser.

Hamacher-Hermes. A. (2008). Frauen in der Logik – Elli Heesch. In: Bernhard, P. and Peckhaus, V., eds. Methodisches Denken im Kontext. Festschrift für Christian Thiel. Mit einem unveröffentlichten Brief Gottlob Freges. Paderborn: Mentis, 269–282.

Sommerfeld, A. (1943). Vorlesungen über Theoretische Physik, Band 1: Mechanik. Leipzig.

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