Joseph Hilarius Eckhel (13 January 1737 – 16 May 1798) was an Austrian Jesuit priest and numismatist.
Eckhel was born at Enzersfeld, in Lower Austria.
His father was farm-steward to Count Zinzendorf, and he received his early education at the Jesuits' College, Vienna, where at the age of fourteen he was admitted into the order. He devoted himself to antiquities and numismatics. After being engaged as professor of poetry and rhetoric, first at Steyer and afterwards at Vienna, he was appointed in 1772 keeper of the cabinet of coins at the Jesuits' College, and in the same year he went to Italy for the purpose of personal inspection and study of antiquities and coins. At Florence he was employed to arrange the collection of the grand duke of Tuscany; and the first-fruits of his study of this and other collections appeared in his Numi veteres anecdoti, published in 1775.
On the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, Eckhel was appointed by the empress Maria Theresa of Austria professor of antiquities and numismatics at the University of Vienna, and this post he held for twenty-four years. He was in the following year made keeper of the imperial cabinet of coins, and in 1779 appeared his Catalogus Vindobonensis numorum veterum.
Eckhel's main work is the Doctrina numorum veterum, in 8 vols, the first of which was published in 1792, and the last in 1798.
According to the 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica:
The author's rich learning, comprehensive grasp of his subject, admirable order and precision of statement in this masterpiece drew from C. G. Heyne enthusiastic praise, and the acknowledgment that Eckhel, as the Coryphaeus of numismatists, had, out of the mass of previously loose and confused facts, constituted a true science.
A volume of Addenda, prepared by Steinbuchel from Eckhel's papers after his death, was published in 1826.
Among his other works are:
- Choix de pierres gravées du Cabinet Imperial des Antiques (1788)
- A school-book on coins entitled Kurzgefasste Anfangsgrunde zur alten Numismatik (1787)