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Abbt visited a secondary school in Ulm, then moved in 1756 to study theology, philosophy and mathematics at the University of Halle. In 1760 he was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder, where he wrote his most well-known work Vom Tode für's Vaterland (1761).
This highly patriotic tract thematises Frederick II's defeat of Kunersdorf. It also drew the attention of the editors of the famous Literaturbriefe (Literary Letters), started by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. He contributed a large number of historical, political, esthetical and philosophical essays. Abbt was a fervent admirer of Lessing and seconded his educational, prosaic style of writing.
He stayed for some time as professor of philosophy and mathematics in Berlin, an university with which he was very displeased. He is quoted calling it a place where nobody knows the names of Ramler, Moses and Lessing. In autumn 1761 he was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Rinteln. While there, he wrote his other famous work, Vom Verdienste (1765)
He travelled for nine months to France, where he was able to speak with Voltaire in Ferney. He also climbed in the alps of Savoy. This travel and the disapproval of the life at the university raised his urge to trade the Theory for the Life.
While dealing with the idea to become historian, he was offered in 1765 at the same time a professorship at the University of Marburg and a post as Councillor of the Court at the court of Count Wilhelm von Schaumburg-Lippe . He decided for the latter. The count was highly interested in the plans of Thomas Abbt, which included a history of Maximilian and a translation of Sallust among others.
- Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie - online version
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