Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg (2 May 1772 – 25 March 1801), pen name Novalis (German pronunciation: [noˈvaːlɪs]), was a German aristocrat and polymath, who was a poet, novelist, philosopher and mystic. He is regarded as an idiosyncratic and influential figure of Jena Romanticism.Novalis was born into a minor aristocratic family in Electoral Saxony. He was the second of eleven children; his early household observed a strict Pietist faith. He studied law at the University of Jena, the University of Leipzig, and the University of Wittenberg. While at Jena, he published his first poem and befriended the playwright and fellow poet Friedrich Schiller. In Leipzig, he then met Friedrich Schlegel, becoming lifetime friends. Novalis completed his law degree in 1794 at the age of 22. He then worked as a legal assistant in Tennstedt immediately after graduating. There, he met Sophie von Kühn. The following year Novalis and Sophie became secretly engaged. Sophie became severely ill soon after the engagement and died just after her 15th birthday. Sophie's early death had a life-long impact on Novalis and his writing.Novalis enrolled at the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology in 1797, where he studied a wide number of disciplines including electricity, medicine, chemistry, physics, mathematics, mineralogy and natural philosophy. He conversed with many of the formative figures of the Early Germanic Romantic period, including Goethe, Friedrich Schelling, Jean Paul and August Schlegel. After finishing his studies, Novalis served as a director of salt mines in Saxony and later in Thuringia. During this time, Novalis wrote major poetic and literary works, including Hymns to the Night. In 1800, he began showing signs of illness, which is thought to have been either tuberculosis or cystic fibrosis, and died on 25 March 1801 at the age of 28.
Novalis' early reputation as a romantic poet was primarily based on his literary works, which were published by his friends Friedrich Schlegel and Ludwig Tieck shortly after his death, in 1802. These works include the collection of poems, Hymns to the Night and Spiritual Hymns, and his unfinished novels, Heinrich von Ofterdingen and The Novices at Sais. Schlegel and Tieck published only a small sample of his philosophical and scientific writings.
The depth of Novalis' knowledge in fields like philosophy and natural science came to be more broadly appreciated with the more extensive publication of his notebooks in the twentieth century. Novalis was not only well read in his chosen disciplines; he also sought to integrate his knowledge with his art. This goal can be seen in his use of the fragment, a form that he wrote in alongside Friedrich Schlegel, and published in Schlegel's journal Athenaeum. The fragment allowed him to synthesize poetry, philosophy, and science into a single art form that could be used to address a wide variety of topics. Just as Novalis' literary works have established his reputation as a poet, the notebooks and fragments have subsequently established his intellectual role in the formation of Early German Romanticism.