Gottfried Achenwall: Biography and Contributions

Gottfried Achenwall was an economist born in Prussia in 1719. He was one of the pioneers of statistical science and is considered the father of this subject, although the English deny that claim. Thus, he was the first to use the term"statistics"to call this discipline.

The word comes from status , with a meaning of"state or situation". Likewise, Achenwall was the one who started using graphics and tables to sort the data he obtained. Apart from that great contribution, the rest of his main works focused on the study of several European countries.

Biography of Gottfried Achenwall

The novelty of this information was the use of statistics to analyze its economic, social and political reality. Achenwall was also a teacher for many years; He taught several subjects: from statistics to philosophy. This last discipline also had enough importance in his later works.

For his research on the continent, the economist visited the countries he wanted to talk about, obtaining first-hand information.


  • 1 Biography of Gottfried Achenwall
    • 1.1 Studies and first works
    • 1.2 Career as a teacher
    • 1.3 Royal counselor
    • 1.4 Death
  • 2 Contributions
    • 2.1 Father of statistics
    • 2.2 Relationship with politics
    • 2.3 Book on Europe
    • 2.4 Other works
  • 3 References

Biography of Gottfried Achenwall

Studies and first works

Gottfried Achenwall came to the world in 1719 in Elbing, a town in the then East Prussia. You do not have much information about your childhood, since there are hardly any references until 1738, when you started studying in Jena. After this, he continued his training in Halle and then returned to Jena.

Between 1743 and 1746 he was working as a controller in Dresden, then returning to resume his studies in Leipzig. It was in the Faculty of Philosophy of that last city where Achenwall obtained his master's degree in 1746.

The following year, in 1747, Achenwall marched to Marburg ( Marburg in German). There he began to work as a teacher's assistant in various subjects, such as international law, nature or history. His main work was the reading of the essays that were presented on these subjects.

It was at that time when he began to make his first investigations on a discipline that he himself baptized as statistics.

Career as a teacher

A few years later, in 1748, he was claimed to join the University of Göttingen; It was in that place where he developed the rest of his teaching career. Achenwall achieved great prestige as a professor of philosophy and law.

However, after some time teaching these subjects, he decided to change. In 1761 he went on to teach Natural Law and Politics. In just a few months he got a doctorate in both types of jurisprudence.

As for his personal life, in 1752 he married Lady Walther. This was not unknown to the society of her time, since she had achieved some success as a writer after publishing several works.

Royal counselor

The trajectory of Achenwall had its moment of public service. In particular, he was appointed counselor of the Court and was part of the Electoral Court of Hanover.

He also obtained the economic support of King George III to travel through several European countries and complete his works on Europe.


Achenwall remained a member of the University of Göttingen until the time of his death. It was in that city where he died in 1772, at the age of 52 years.


Father of statistics

The statistic, although it was not called yet, was born in the mid-seventeenth century. It is attributed to Hermann Conring the creation of this discipline, which consisted in describing the most remarkable facts of some State, but systematizing the data.

It was not until the works of Achenwall when it received the name of statistics, whose etymology comes from status ; that is,"state"or"situation". In any case, some experts claim that the term had already been used in Italy, although it had not been defined in depth.

Achenwall did elaborate that definition in his book Compendium of the political constitution of European countries and peoples , Published in 1749. In this work he uses the term to name what he called"State science", proceeding to analyze the data of several governments.

It should be noted that some English authors claimed for their country the paternity of the name of the discipline, since they maintain that the contribution of William Petty was ignored.

The novelty of Achenwall's work is that he used the word statistics to refer to all the numerical data and his concentration, but he did not stay here: he also began to present them in graphs and tables.

In this way, statistics was defined as the quantitative description of the different social, economic or political aspects of a State.

Relationship with politics

Since their works dealt with the characteristics of several countries, they were also considered from a political point of view.

In fact, he himself spoke about statistics as the"science of things that belong to the State, calling the State all that is a civil society and the country in which it lives, with all that is found in assets and cash. ; statistics deals with the phenomena that can favor or defend the prosperity of the State."

To finish that sentence, Achenwall wrote:"politics teaches how States should be, statistics explains how they really are".

Book on Europe

Achenwall only had time to analyze the reality of some European countries, since he died very young. He dealt with Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, Holland, France, Russia, Sweden and Denmark.

His work, in which he showed the data of all aspects of those countries, was very important at the time. In fact, he influenced during the next 40 years how these countries were governed and organized.

The book is divided into two parts. In each, Achenwall analyzed a group of different countries. His early death prevented him from publishing a third part with another group of nations.

Other works

In addition to what is considered his culminating work, the author wrote other books, among which Principles of political economy . In this work he reviewed the history of the States of Europe from the point of view of law and political economy.

Achenwall also touched economic science and politics. In these he was considered as a follower of the school of"moderate mercantilists".


  1. Enciclonet. Achenwall, Godofredo (1719-1772). Retrieved from
  2. ITA. Gottfried Achenwall. Retrieved from
  3. Dictionary of Political Economy. Achenwall Gottfried. Retrieved from
  4. Upclosed. Gottfried Achenwall. Retrieved from
  5. Ostasiewicz, Walenty. The Emergence of Statistical Science. Retrieved from
  6. Christ M., José Antonio. Educational Statistics. Retrieved from
  7. INE. History of Statistics. Retrieved from
  8. Hernández Hurtado, Juan. Brief History of Statistics. Retrieved from

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