Space for Poets and Researchers
Apart from the spirit of trade, Hamburg has traditionally embodied a spirit of free thinking which has attracted poets and thinkers through the ages. In addition, many sons and daughters of Hamburg have had a major influence on subsequent generations. The celebrated poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock lived here. The adventurer Friedrich Gerstäcker and the physicist Gustav Ludwig Hertz spent their childhood years in the Passagenviertel.
Between 1774 and 1803, the poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803) lived in Königstrasse/Poststrasse 36. Following the publication of the first three cantos of his epic poem »Messias«, he was celebrated as a brilliant poet. Klopstock strongly believed that writers should be economically independent. He was a role model for subsequent generations of poets in that he made a decision to be a professional poet and not to pursue any other form of gainful employment. In 1770 he founded an elitist reading society in Hamburg. In 1792 the French National Assembly made Klopstock an honorary citizen. Since 1859 a bust of Klopstock has adorned the house at Poststrasse 36 and a relief portrait of the poet can be seen in the Rathausdiele, a prestigious columned hall which is part of Hamburg’s city hall.
The author Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Gerstäcker (1816-1872) lived in Poststrasse 19 as a child. Following the early death of his father, he was forced to move to Brunswick and start a commercial apprenticeship against his will.
Having worked on a country estate in Saxony, he travelled to America in 1838. Following his return to Germany in 1844, Gerstäcker published his book »Streif- und Jagdzüge durch die Vereinigten Staaten« (»Rambling and Hunting in the United States of North America«), which was instrumental in shaping German perception of life in America at the time. Other books followed, as did a number of practical guides for emigrants. Gerstäcker published a series of travel reports and stories and undertook several journeys to America on behalf of the Frankfurt-based government. During the German-French war of 1870/71 he worked as a war reporter. Late effects of health problems incurred during the war as well as during his wandering years contributed to his death in 1872. The US state of Arkansas bestowed an honorary citizenship on him posthumously in 1957. In 1979 the Friedrich-Gerstäcker-Gesellschaft was founded in Brunswick.
The physicist Heinrich Robert Hertz (1857-1894) spent his childhood years living in Poststrasse 20. He is credited with discovering electromagnetic waves, he conducted research into electrodynamics and his work provided the basis for wireless radio technology. The scientific unit of frequency – cycles per second – was named »hertz« (Hz) in his honour. Hamburg’s radio telecommunication tower (Heinrich-Hertz-Turm) bears his name, too.