Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche was born in the Prussian province of Saxony on October 15th, 1844. His father, a Lutheran minister, died a mere five years later. He spent his childhood days surrounded by his mother, his sister, and two maiden aunts. After attending a first rate boarding school (Schulpforta), he went on to study classical philology at the universities of Bonn and Leipzig. At 24 years of age, he earned a professorship at Basel, which is where his brilliance came to be more widely noticed.

Nietzsche taught at Basel from 1869 to 1879, excluding a brief time in the military. During this time, Nietzsche was the younger colleague of Jacob Burckhardt and Franz Overbeck. His relationship with Overbeck solidified with the two becoming lifelong friends and associates. Nietzsche's first great work, The Birth of Tragedy, came in 1872, and was followed other works ... most notably Human, All too Human in 1878. His brief military service came during the Franco-Prussian war when Nietzsche left Basel and volunteered as a medical orderly on active duty. His time in the military was short and he returned to Basel in a state of shattered health. In 1879 he resigned from Basel, but instead of waiting to heal, he pushed headlong into a more fervent schedule of writing than ever before.

While Nietzsche continuously kept in contact with his former colleagues, His most productive years were after he left Basel, with the culmination of his work (not to mention notoriety) coming with the writing of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For many years, Nietzsche had been closely associated with the German composer, Richard Wagner. The extent of their relationship is speculation at best, but at some point around 1887-1888, there was a deep rift wedged between the two men. In 1889, less than two weeks after the completion of Nietzsche contra Wagner, he broke down, insane. Accounts tell of a frail Nietzsche draping himself around the neck of an old horse which was being brutally beaten in the street. There are numerous possible explanations for his madness, perhaps the most logical of which is that it was a condition brought on by an advancing case of syphilis. Others have postulated that the sheer weight of his thought and the gravity by which he saw reality ultimately uncoiled even his most tightly wrapped intellect.

Most of his final years were spent in his sister Elisabeth's care. During this time, Elisabeth grew more and more involved in the burgeoning anti-semitic movements in Germany. While he wasted away, she collected and edited many of his scattered notes and tailored them to suit her own political agenda. The fruition of this was Nietzsche's altered works and philosophy being a cornerstone in the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler's personal mantra. In 1900, he died ... in 1901, Elisabeth published The Will to Power.