b. 1703 - d. 1756
return to SPECIAL ARTICLES
Amo's life followed a path considerable different from the 18th century Nigerian Mathematician Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Fullani al-Kishnawi.
Amo was born in 1703 near the modern day town Axim, Ghana. At the age of four he was seized by slavers, transported to the Dutch West Indies, and presented to the court and given to Duke Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig-Wofenbüttel. The Duke handed him over to his son August Wilhelm. In 1708 Amo was christened with the names Anton Wilhelm after his patrons. In 1721 he was baptised.
Anton-Wilhelm Amo was educated with support from the Princess of Braunschweig, and he attended Halle University in 1727 learning Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German and Dutch. In 1729 he graduated from Halle in law with his Disputation De jure Maurorum in Europa . In 1730 Amo went to Wittenberg University and in the same year gained a degree as Doctor of Philosophy. In 1733, on the visit of Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, Amo led the students' procession in the monarch's honor. As his Disputation was published, Amo was made Professor of Philosophy.
In 1736 Dr. Anton Wilhelm Amo returned to Halle as lecturer in 1736. At Halle, he taught psychology, 'natural law' and the decimal system - a universality which was then customary. In 1738 Amo's Treatise on the Art of Philosophizing Soberly and Accurately ( Tractatus de arte sobrie et accurate philosophandi ) was published in Halle. He subsequently was considered quite a bright star. The following year moved to Jena University, where he gave his inaugural lecture on 'The Frontiers of Psychology,'
Anton-Wilhelm Amo remained at Jena until May 1740. The two sons of Duke Anton Ulrich had died in 1731 and 1735 respectively; Johann Peter von Ludewig, Chancellor of Halle University, died in 1742. Thus Amo had no other patron in Germany. He eventually returned to Axim where he was honored as a traditional doctor. In 1756, he died in a Dutch fort.
The Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg now has an annual Anton Wilhelm Amo Prize of DM 2,000 in his honor.
NOTE: We had help preparing this material from colleague John Isbell who originally brought our attention to Amo. Recently we have learned that a group is hoping to motivate the city of Wittenberg to put up a name plaque for Amo at a house in the inner city close to where he is supposed to have lived (many houses in Wittenberg carry name plaques of personalities who have lived there; it's quite an assembly including Martin Luther and the circle of reformers of course, Lucas Cranach, Giordano Bruno, but also inventors of telegraphy and the logarithmic system.
- Abraham, W., The Life and Times of Wilhelm Anton Amo, Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, 7 (1964), pp. 60-81
- Blakely, Allison. Problems in Studying the Role of Blacks in Europe. Formerly available at: URL http://chnm.gmu.edu/aha/persp/tin/blakely597.html
- Heckmann, Hannelore. Anton Wilhelm Amo (ca. 1707-ca. 1756): On the Reception of a Black Philosopher, XXIII: 149-158.
- Janheinz Jahn, Neo-African Literature: A History of Black Writing, New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1968, pp. 35. 38-39).
- Kwame Anthony Appiah. African Philosophy New Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1998
- Sephocle, Marilyn. 1992. Anton Wilhelm Amo. Journal of Black Studies. 23: 182-187.
- Wimmer, Franz Martin. Rassismus und Kulturphilosophie, in: Willfährige Wissenschaft: Die Universität Wien, 1938-1945. (Vienna: Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, 1989), pp. 89-114.
- Zur Geschichte der Martin-Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Available at: http://184.108.40.206/wiwi/allgemeines/hist/hist.htm
additional references: [houtondji, pp. 111-130]
Return to Special Articles
These web pages are brought to
The Mathematics Department of
The State University of New York at Buffalo.
created and maintained by
Dr. Scott W. Williams
Professor of Mathematics
SEARCH the website
CONTACT Dr. Williams