Lavater, Johann Kaspar.
Lavater, Johann Kaspar (b. Nov. 11, 1741, Zurich, Switz.--d. Jan. 2, 1801, Zurich)
Swiss writer, Protestant pastor, and founder of physiognomics, an antirational, religious, and literary movement.
Lavater's studies in physiognomy and his interest in "magnetic" trance conditions had their source in his religious beliefs, which drove him to search for demonstrable traces of the divine in human life. His Physiognomische Fragmente zur Beforderung der Menschenkenntnis und Menschenliebe, 4 vol. (1775-78; Essays on Physiognomy), established his reputation throughout Europe. J.W. von Goethe worked with Lavater on the book, and the two enjoyed a warm friendship that was later severed by Lavater's zeal for conversion. His most important books are Aussichten in die Ewigkeit (1768-78; "Prospects in Eternity"), Geheimes Tagebuch von einem Beobachter seiner selbst (1772-73; Secret Journal of a Self Observer), Pontius Pilatus (1782-85), and Nathanael (1786). His lyrical and epic poems are imitations of Friedrich Klopstock.