Optical Scientist, Artisan. He is credited for discovering of the dark absorption lines (named Fraunhofer lines in his honor) in the Sun's spectrum and for making high quality optical glass and colorless telescope objectives. Born Joseph Fraunhofer in Straubing, Bavaria (present-day Germany), he was orphaned at the age of 11 and soon apprenticed to a glassmaker. In 1801 the building in which he was working collapsed and he was buried alive. The rescue operation was led by Maximilian IV Joseph, the Prince Elector of Bavaria (the future King Maximilian Joseph I), who provided him with books and forced his harsh employer to give him time to study. He was able to further his education alongside his practical training. In 1806 he went to the Institute at Benediktbeuren, a secularized Benedictine monastery in Benediktbeuren, Bavaria that specialized in glassmaking., where he soon discovered how to make the world's finest optical glass and would invent precise methods for measuring dispersion. While there he met Pierre Louis Guinand, a Swiss glass technician, who taught him the secrets of glassmaking. In 1809 he assumed the direction of the mechanical part of the Institute and became one of the members of the firm and in 1814 he invented the spectroscope. The same year Guinand left the Institute as did Georg von Reichenbach and he became a partner of the firm, becoming its director in 1818. As a result of his precision optical instruments, Bavaria overtook England as the center of the optics industry. In 1821 he developed a diffraction grating. His work in optics earned him an honorary doctorate from the University of Erlangen in 1822 and in 1824 he was ennobled as Joseph von Fraunhofer and awarded the Merit Order of the Bavarian Crown, making him an honorary citizen Of Munich, in Bavaria. Because glassmaking of that era involved the emission of poisonous heavy metal vapors, he died at the age of 39. His most valuable glassmaking recipes were never documented and went to the grave with him.
Bio by: William Bjornstad