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Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

My Berlin: literature & physics converge in Schöneberg cemetery

It’s a big thrill when travel merges with aspects of my childhood upbringing or aspects of my education. I’m fortunate to have had this experience in the German capital city of Berlin.

I had read that the Brüder Grimm (Grimm Brothers) were buried in Berlin Schöneberg. On a walk through the district, I arrived at the Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, or Old Saint Matthew Cemetery, near the Yorckstrasse train station.

Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Brothers Grimm | Brüder Grimm

Known primarily by their association with children’s stories, the Brothers Grimm (Wiilhelm and Jacob) were not only collectors of folklore and legends, but also scholars, authors, and linguists.

While many of their stories have been “sanitized” for present-day consumption, it’s important to realize the stories’ origins in folklore and to understand what “unsavory” parts have been removed. The complete “Children’s and Household Tales” (Kinder- und Hausmärchen) consisting of over 200 stories including Hansel & Grethel, Cinderella, and Rumpelstiltskin were translated into English by Margaret Hunt in 1884; they are reproduced in their entirety on the Sur La Lune Fairy Tales webpage.

Familie Grimm, Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Familie Grimm, Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Here in the Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, The Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm and Jacob, are on the right; Wilhelm’s sons, Hermann and Rudolph, are on the left.


Gustav Robert Kirchhoff | Kirchhoffs Grab

After finding the Brothers Grimm, I walked around the cemetery some more, and by complete accident, I found the grave of Gustav Kirchhoff.

If someone happens to be studying physics or engineering, Kirchhoff’s name comes up plenty. I’ve obtained degrees in physics and with the various concepts by Kirchhoff forming a significant part of that education, it’s very interesting to find his name recognized in much wider public discourse. That is, he is recognized in Germany as having been a great scientist.

Gustav Robert Kirchhoff, Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Gustav Robert Kirchhoff, Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Geboren 12. Maerz 1824 in Koenigsberg, Pruessen. Gestorben 17. October 1887 in Berlin.

Professor Doktor Physiker.
Arbeiten auf dem Gebiet der Spektralanalyse (mit Bunsen), der Elektrizitätslehre und der Strahlungstheorie (Kirchhoffsche Regeln 1845, Kirchhoffsches Strahlungsgesetz 1859)

Born in Königsberg, Prussia on March 12, 1824; died in Berlin on October 17, 1887.

Professor Doctor physicist.
Work in the field of spectral analysis (with Bunsen), electricity- and radiation-theory (Kirchhoff’s rules in 1845, Kirchhoff’s law of radiation 1859, respectively).

While his achievements in physics are numerous, he is best known in the field of spectroscopy; that is, the process and study of obtaining a spectrum with the separation of light into its components. For example, a rainbow is a naturally-occurring spectrum, as the various “colours” are separated when sunlight is refracted by water droplets acting as prisms. Kirchhoff’s work led directly to the study of the chemical properties of objects in space by comparing their spectra with the spectra of known chemical elements on the Earth.


I had set out to visit the cemetery in the hopes of finding the graves for the Brothers Grimm, and I was surprised by my additional discovery of Kirchhoff’s grave. Having been raised and educated in Vancouver, Canada, it’s fun to see that travel, literature, and physics came neatly together on the other side of the world, in a cemetery in the middle of Berlin, Germany.

Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Berlin public transport with BVG: The nearest train station is Yorckstrasse, served by S-Bahn S1, S2 and S25 lines, and the U-Bahn U7 line. It’s worth noting the S1 and S2/S25 lines have different platforms and entrances/exits. The south entrance/exit from the S1 platform leads directly to the cemetery’s main entrance. Alternatively, bus M19 stops outside the Yorckstrasse train station, just north of the cemetery.

I made the photos above on 29 October 2012. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-2A3.

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