Pufendorf (often spelled Puffendorf by English writers), Samuel, a German jurist and publicist, born near Chemnitz, Saxony, Jan. 8, 1632, died in Berlin, Oct. 26, 1694. He was educated at Grimma, studied theology at the university of Leipsic, and in 1656 went to Jena to devote himself to mathematics and philosophy under Erhard Weigel, at the same time applying himself to the law of nature. On quitting Jena he became tutor to the son of the Swedish ambassador at Copenhagen, and while there prepared a work on general law, in which the principles of Grotius, Hobbes, and other jurists were combined with observations of his own. This was published in Holland in 1660 under the title of Elementa Jurisprudentioe Universalis. It was dedicated to the elector palatine, Charles Louis, who in 1661 founded at Heidelberg a professorship of the law of nature and of nations, and placed Pufendorf in the chair. His lectures were very popular, and the university recovered during his residence much of its ancient prestige. In his Severini a Monzambano, De Statu Imperii Germanici (Geneva, 1667) he showed that the Germanic system was an incongruous assemblage of discordant parts, and the parent of many social and political abuses, and suggested practical remedies.
The work was translated into the chief languages of Europe, but excited much hostile criticism in Germany, particularly in Austria, where it was ordered to be burned by the hangman. Pufendorf defended the work without acknowledging the authorship, but found his position so uncomfortable, in consequence of the acrimonious controversy with German publicists, that in 1670 he accepted from Charles XI. of Sweden the professorship of the law of nations at Lund. In 1672 he published there the work on which his reputation now rests, the treatise De Jure Naturoe, et Gentium ("On the Law of Nature and Nations"), of which in 1673 he prepared an abridgment with some variations, entitled De Officio Hominis ac Givis Libri duo ("On the Duties of a Man and a Citizen"). On the invitation of the king of Sweden he removed to Stockholm, was appointed councillor of state and royal historiographer, and published Commentarii de Rebus Suecicis ab Expeditione Gustavi Adol-phi usque ad Abdicationem Christinoe (Utrecht, 1676). In 1688 he accepted a similar office, with an annual pension of 2,000 crowns, at the court of Frederick William, elector of Brandenburg, the history of whose reign he published under the title of Commentarii de Rebus Gestis Frederici Wilhelmi Magni, Electoris Brandenburgici. In 1694, shortly before his death, and while he was in Berlin, the king of Sweden created him a baron.
Of his great treatise, first printed in German at Leyden in 1672, and afterward at Frankfort much augmented (1684), the best edition is that published at Leipsic cum Notis Variorum by G. Mascov (2 vols. 4to, 1744). The French translation by J. Barbeyrac (2 vols. 4to, Amsterdam, 1712), with notes, is the version most esteemed. There is an English version by Basil Kennet, with Barbeyrac's preface and notes translated by Carew (London, 1749). Pufendorf wrote several less important works.