|Right: the famous 1857 Goethe-Schiller statue in Weimar (copies in San Francisco, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Syracuse, & Anting); Left: the circa 1805 Goethe-Schiller bust, depicting Goethe looking into the skull of Schiller trying to figure out where his old friend had gone—the passing of Schiller, in 1805, thus gave way to the imagined role of the Captain (mixed in with the character of Wilhelm Buchholz, pictured), with whom Eduard and Charlotte discusses the elective affinities; similar to how Goethe and Schiller discussed the elective and similar to how Schiller’s wife, Charlotte von Schiller (1766-1826), would have discussed the elective affinities with the two of them. Charlotte von Schiller, for example, is thought that Goethe’s Elective Affinities, as summarized by Astrida Tantillo (2001), “demonstrated Goethe’s infinite understanding and genius as a writer and praised its realistic qualities.” |
The main part of the character of the Captain seems to be Goethe's good friend German author Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), who in 1788 (see: Goethe timeline) Goethe approved for appointment as professor of history at Jena (similar to the way Eduard brings the Captain over to his estate for employment in the remodeling of the land). Their mutual friendship begins in 1794 when Schiller invites Goethe to contribute to the journal Die Horen, after which frequent mutual visits in Jena and Weimar occur.
The 1916 article “Goethe and the Chemists”, by Roy House, seems to convincingly indicate that German chemist-physician Wilhelm Buchholz, described as a “prosperous and jovial man of the world” and “genuine scientist”, was the Captain based on the fact that Buchholz was lecturing to Goethe in 1798 at the weekly Friday Society meetings on the latest findings in chemistry and that in the novel, the Captain states that he will attempt to explain 'affinity' to Charlotte as he had learned it ten years ago, which coincides with Buchholz last lectures on the latest chemistry to Goethe in 1798 the year of his death.
|Character||Assigned Person||Actual description||Novella description|
|Captain (Cap)||=||Wilhelm Buchholz (1734-1798)||German physician-chemist; part of Goethe’s Friday Society at Weimar, where, from from 1791 to 1798, Buchholz presented the latest chemical findings.The death of Buchholz would corroborate with the "ten years ago" (1808 - 10 = 1798) comment by the Captain in the novella, the year when Goethe began to write Elective Affinities.||In describing affinity to Charlotte, the Captain comments: “as well as I can from what I learned from reading about it some ten years ago. Whether the scientific world still thinks of it in the same way, or whether it agrees with the latest theories, I cannot say.”|
|=||Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)||A man of knowledge, talents, and ability; presently unemployed, through no fault of his own; becomes a Major after the war; lectures to Eduard and Charlotte on the principles of modern chemistry (chapter four).|
|=||Jacob Spielmann (1722-1783)||French chemist; Goethe attended his lectures in 1770-71 at Strasbourg University.|
|Goethe is buried with Schiller at the Ducal Vault in Weimar, a fact that seems to very clearly indicate that Schiller was indeed the Captain, or at least the inspiration for the dominant portion of his character. |
To note, in 2007 Thims argued that the Captain was likely based on a mixture of Goethe’s alter-ego (as some have claimed) and Goethe’s lifelong friend German chemist Johann Dobereiner (1780-1849), whose weekly chemistry lectures Goethe attended, just as the Captain in the novella lectures Eduard and Charlotte on the principles of modern chemistry in chapter four.  This, however, seems to have been an incorrect guess, as the Goethe seems not to have become acquainted with Dobereiner until 1810 (the year after his novella was already published). This false supposition, i.e. that Goethe based his human elective affinities theory as he had learned it from Dobereiner's lectures (an incorrect supposition), has been carried forward in print in at least one chemistry textbook. 
1. Goethe, Johann. (1971). Elective Affinities (translation and introduction by R.J. Hollingdale; chronology and further reading by David Deissner, 2005). Penguin.
2. (a) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume One) (Captain and Dovereiner, pg. xv). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
(b) Thims, Libb. (2007). Human Chemistry (Volume Two) (ch. 10: Goethe’s Affinities). Morrisville, NC: LuLu.
3. Syamal, Arun. (2008). Living Science Chemistry 10 (pg. 136). Ratna Sagar.
4. (a) Tantillo, Astrida, O. (2001). Goethe’s Elective Affinities and the Critics (pg. 10). Camden House.
(b) Charlotte von Lengefeld – Wikipedia.
5. (a) Ducal Vault – Klassik-Stiftung.de.
(b) Weimarer Furstengruft – Wikipedia.