Johann Friedrich Böttger

Dates1682 - 1719

To his contemporaries, Johann Friedrich Böttger was variously a magician, an alchemist, and a cheat. When he was only nineteen years old, Böttger caught the attention of Frederick Augustus I, Elector of Saxony, who heard the young man's boast that he could produce gold from base metals. The impoverished ruler, welcoming the opportunity to refill his state's coffers, quickly summoned him. The supposed gold-maker panicked and fled but was soon caught and ordered to stay under virtual house arrest until he revealed his secret formula. While trying to produce heat-resistant crucibles for goldmaking, Böttger developed an especially hard and dense red stoneware.For nearly six years, Böttger experimented desperately. Although unable to produce gold, he did manage to make another important breakthrough-the recipe for "true" or hard-paste porcelain. Until his discovery, Europeans had had to rely on costly imports of Chinese and Japanese porcelain to satisfy their desire for this delicate material. On March 28, 1709, Böttger finally perfected translucent white porcelain. The Elector quickly established a manufactory at Meissen to start production and hired others to help refine the new material and to create colored enamels to decorate it. Böttger discovered few colors before his death but still managed to revolutionize the porcelain market.