Tuesday 27 May 2014

A Lucky Accident for Joseph von Fraunhofer

Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria (Schwetzingen, Baden, 27th May 1756 - Munich, Bavaria, 13th October 1825)

Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820
Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Today we make the reacquaintance of Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, a king who was well-liked by his subjects and court. He was a a monarch who loved to mingle with the citizens of his country and on the anniversary of his birthday, it seems apt to share a story that demonstrates the very personal interest he took in the lives of those over whom he reigned.

On 21st July 1801 the house of glassmaker Philipp Anton Weichelsberger collapsed. Buried beneath the rubble of the building was Weichelsberger's 14 year old apprentice, Joseph von Fraunhofer. Rushing to the scene of the disaster, Maximilian directed the rescue efforts at the scene of the catastrophe and the young lad was pulled from the wreckage, shaken but alive. Also present at the rescue was Joseph von Utzschneider, a prominent figure in the world of glassmaking and between Utzschneider and Maximilian, the young man's life was to be transformed.

Joseph von Fraunhofer
Joseph von Fraunhofer

Maximilian took a personal interest in the future welfare of Fraunhofer and donated money and books in order that he might continue his studies. He prevailed upon Weichelsberger, a stern taskmaster, to allow his apprentice time away from work to study under Utzschneider's care. With Maximilian's financial and moral support, Fraunhofer was eventually able to leave the employ of Weichelsberger and become apprentice to Utzschneider instead. 

It was to prove a fateful decision; the young man who had been rescued from the remains of his master's house went onto become famed for his experiments, inventions and discoveries in the field of optical instrumentation and science. His name lives on today, immortalised in  Fraunhofer Lines, a scientific term still used by scientists to this day.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Unknown said...

Another fascinating piece of history from Madame Gilflurt. I didn't know this, and I live in Germany. Royal support for a commoner made such a huge difference.

Catherine Curzon said...

And because of Fraunhofer's research, continued to have an impact for generations!