Johann Wilhelm Krause, the architect of the University of Tartu, was born on 19 June 1757 into the family of the chief forester in Dittmansdorf, Lower Silesia, and died on 10 August 1828 in Tartu; he is buried in the Vana-Jaani cemetery in Tartu.
He was educated at the Brieg and Zittau secondary schools, and received his initial architectural training from K. C. Eschke, a master builder in Zittau. In 1774, Krause moved to Dresden; in 1778 he was admitted to the Theology Department at Leipzig University. Around 1781, for financial reasons, he went to North America as a Hessian soldier in the service of the British and remained there until the end of the American Revolution. Krause arrived in Livonia about 1787. Initially he worked as a private teacher for the Delwigs, and from 1788, he taught at Seltinghof Manor owned by Count Mellin. Thereafter, Krause acquired his own manor near Krimulda. He took an interest in local conditions, geography and history, and collaborated with members of the Livonian literati like W. C. Friebe, J. C. Brotze and L. A. Mellin. In 1791, Krause made a trip to St. Petersburg; in 1796-97, he travelled to Germany and Switzerland with J. G. Grass, a friend from his youth.
With his marriage in 1797, he became the brother-in-law of G. F. Parrot, the Rector of the University of Tartu. In 1803, Krause was elected to be Professor of Economics, Technology and Civil Engineering at the University of Tartu, a position he occupied until his death. He also became the university’s architect and chairman of the building committee and Toomemägi planting committee (1803-1812).
Krause recorded views of the town as sepia drawings, compiled maps and made other contributions to W. C. Friebe’s work Handbook of the History of Livonia, Estonia and Courland, L. Mellin’s collection of Estonian, Livonian and Courland maps, to volumes 9 and 10 of A. W. Hupel’s Nordic Miscellanea (Riga, 1785). He also designed farmhouses to improve living conditions for the peasantry, watermills, bridges and Early Neoclassical manor houses (incl. the Mellin family’s Tuhala Manor in Harju County).
The design of the University of Tartu buildings, which created a worthy monument for him in his lifetime, turned out to Krause’s greatest achievement. All the symbolic buildings at University of Tartu were designed by Krause. The Anatomical Theatre (1805), Library in the ruins of the Cathedral (1806), the central sections of the greenhouses at the Botanical Gardens (1807-1810), the main building (1809) and the Observatory (1810) were all based on the Enlightenment Era’s optimistic wish to improve the world. Krause also designed the main allées in Toomemägi Park and Tartu’s oldest monument – the so-called People’s Monument on Toomemägi Hill (1806), which marks the burial site of the skeletons were found in the Church of St. Mary cemetery and around the Cathedral.
Krause published memoirs of university life in the early 19th century and his voluminous archives are located in the University of Tartu Library.
- Honorary Doctor, University of Tartu 1810