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Franz Karl Achard

  Franz Karl Achard (April 28, 1753, Berlin - April 20, 1821, Wohlau-Cunern) was a German (Prussian) chemist, physicist and biologist. His principle discovery was the production of sugar from sugar beets.

Achard was born in Berlin, the son of preacher Max Guillaume Achard and his wife Marguerite Elisabeth (Rouppert). He studied physics and chemistry in Berlin. He became interested in sugar refining through his stepfather. At the age of 20, Achard entered the "Circle of Friends of Natural Sciences" and met Andreas Sigismund Marggraf, then director of the physical classes at the Royal Academy of Sciences. Achard studied many subjects, including meteorology, evaporation chillness, electricity, telegraphy, gravity, lightning arresters, and published in German and French.

Achard was a favorite of King Frederick II of Prussia, and was directly reported to the King on his research twice a week. About a study on the influence of electricity on mental capabilities, Frederick II was reported to have said: If he is able to provide reason for the half wits in my Prussian states using electricity, then he is worth more than his own weight in gold.

In 1776 Achard was elected to the Royal Academy of Sciences at Berlin. Following the death of Marggraf in 1782 went on to become the director of the physical classes of the academy.

For his discoveries in the acclimatisation of tobacco to Germany, the king granted him a lifetime pension of 500 taler. Achard was also esteemed by Frederick William II of Prussia.

Achard revived the discovery by Marggraf in 1747 that sugar beets contained sugar, and devised a process to produce sugar from sugar beets. Beginning in 1789, he planted various sugar-bearing plants on his manor in Caulsdorf near Berlin. Because of their efficiency, he soon preferred sugar beets. In the following year he studied different varieties of beets and the influence of fertilisers. The research was interrupted when Caulsdorf manor burnt down and had to be sold. Achard later continued on the manor Französisch Buchholz.

In 1801, with the support of King Friedrich Wilhelm III, he opened the first sugar beet refinery in Konary, Silesia, Prussia. In 1802, the refinery processed 400 tons of beets with a degree of efficiency of 4%. Other refineries were soon built by his students Johann Gottlob Nathusius and Moritz, Freiherr von Koppy. Later, refineries appeared in Bohemia, Augsburg and in 1811 in France. It was destroyed in 1945 by the French.

English sugar merchants offered Achard 200,000 taler to declare his experiments a failure, but refused. With Achards discovery, sugar was no longer a luxury product, but became available for everyone. The culture of the sugar bowl began.

In 1794, Achard built an optical telegraph between Spandau and Bellevue. This device had been invented just one year before by Claude Chappe.

Due to the economical incapacity of Achard, and several fires caused by technological shortcomings, his refineries were declared bankrupt in 1815. He died, destitute, in 1821 in Wohlau. His life's work was carried on however, mainly by French industrials and came back to Germany with the refineries of Matthias Christian Rabbethge.


  • Lectures on Experimental Philosophy 4 vol., 1792
  • Abhandlung über die Bereitung des Zuckers aus der in vielen Provinzen allerhöchst - Dero Staaten, als Viehfutter häufig angebauten Runkelrübe, nebst den dazu gehörigen Belägen und Proben des Runkelrübenzuckers, Berlin, 1799
  • Anleitung zur Bereitung des Rohzuckers aus Rüben, Berlin, 1800
  • Kurze Geschichte der Beweise der Ausführbarkeit im Großen der Zuckerfabrication aus Runkelrüben, Berlin, 1800
  • Anleitung zum Anbau der Runkelrüben, Breslau, 1803
  • Über den Einfluß der Runkelrübenzuckerfabrication auf die Ökonomie, Glogau, 1805
  • Die europäische Zuckerfabrication aus Runkelrüben, Leipzig, 1812

Further reading

  • Gough, J.B. (1970). "Achard, Franz Karl". Dictionary of Scientific Biography 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 44-45. ISBN 0684101149. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Franz_Karl_Achard". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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