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Johann Friedrich Böttger

  Johann Friedrich Böttger (February 4, 1682 - March 13, 1719) was a German alchemist.

He was generally acknowledged as the inventor of European porcelain although more recent sources ascribe this to Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus. Böttger is still credited with the industrial manufacturing process of Meißen porcelain.


Böttger was born in Schleiz, Thuringia.

Around 1700, an apprentice chemist with the pharmacist Zorn in Berlin, he locked himself up to discover in private the "Alltinktur". With it any disease could be cured and base metals converted into gold. His doing did not stay secret for long and soon he was regarded as an adept in alchemy. When August the Strong learned about this business he requested the confiscation of the "guy" (protective custody). Böttger escaped, but was detained and taken back to Dresden. The monarch who was always short of money, demanded the so called "Alltinktur" and the conversion of base metals into gold. Needless to say that Böttger could not fulfil this request.

In 1704, von Tschirnhaus was ordered to oversee the goldmaker. Presumably by involving Böttger in his experiments, he spared him the fate that overtook former alchemist adventurers. Böttger on the other hand couldn't care less and refused any cooperation till September 1707. He did not want to be involved with porcelain which he thought was von Tschirnhaus' business. Only on higher order Böttger started to cooperate.

In December 1707 the king went to the new laboratory that had been furnished for von Tschirnhaus in the casemates of the venus bastion (today Brühlsche Terrasse) in order to examine the invention.

Under von Tschirnhaus' supervision and with the assistance of miners and metal workers from Freiberg, the experiments with different clays continued. Substantial progress was achieved in 1708 when two shipments of minerals proved to be suitable: a sample of kaolin from Schneeberg and alabaster as flux material. August the Strong appointed von Tschirnhaus to Privy Council and director of a manufacture which still had to be set up. He decreed that von Tschirnhausen was to be paid off 2561 Thaler". Von Tschirnhaus asked to earn this title only after the production had been started.

European porcelain is considered to be a re-invention since porcelain had already been known from China. However its composition was not known in Europe. Its origins date back to 200 BC. One thousand years later the production of translucent porcelain succeeded which later roused admiration and envy in the western world. It was equally valued as silver and gold. That is why porcelain was referred to as white gold.

Tschirnhaus died at Dresden, in October 1708, from dysentery. The continuation of the development was uncertain. Three days later, Böttger reported a burglary into his house to the governor Egon Prince of Fürstenberg. Thereby a small porcelain cup made by Tschirnhaus had disappeared. This report is an important reference, as Böttger himself attests that it was a real porcelain product made by von Tschirnhaus.

Until 20 March, 1709, when Melchior Steinbrück arrived in Dresden, the porcelain works were suspended. Steinbrück was the tutor of von Tschirnhaus' family and now was in charge of administering the estate. Among others he got hold of the formula to make porcelain. On March 20 1709 Steinbrück signed the list of assets before a notary and met Böttger, who suddenly on March 28 1709 notified the king about the invention of porcelain. Böttger became head of the first porcelain manufacture in Europe. He appointed Steinbrück to inspector who later married Böttger's sister.

In 1719 the arcanist Samuel Stölzel escaped from Meißen to Wien and betrayed the porcelain-secret. He claimed that Böttger and not Tschirnhaus discovered porcelain. Also in 1719 the secretary general of the manufacture in Meißen, Caspar Bussius reported: "that the invention of porcelain is not due to Böttger but von Tschirnhaus and that Böttger received the written "science" from Steinbrück".

In a later report from 1731, Peter Mohrenthal wrote: "All of Saxony will remember von Tschirnhaus and his fame will persist forever, as long as the porcelain factory in Meißen is unique besides the Chinese one... Since Mr Tschirnhaus is the first who luckily found the secret to porcelain while the reputed baron Böttger later worked out the details... Because death disrupted all endeavours of Mr. von Tschirnhaus, which the world can not pay for with gold."

In literature

The story of Johann Friedrich Böttger is topic of Gustav Meyrink's Goldmachergeschichten. His name is changed to Johann Friedrich Bötticher.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Johann_Friedrich_Böttger". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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