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Ercker [Erckner, Erckel], Lazarus

1. Dates
Born: Annaberg, Saxony, ca. 1530
Died: Prague, Bohemia, 1594
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 64
2. Father
Occupation: Miner
The father was a miner.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Birth, Germany Career, Germany and Bohemia Death, Bohemia.
4. Education
Schooling: Wittenberg
secondary: went to school at Annaberg.
university: 1547-8 studied at U Wittenberg. No mention of a degree.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Lutheran assumed
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Chemistry, Metallurgy
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government, Patronage
1554?, through help of one of his wife's relatives, a doctor named Johann Neefe, Ercker was appointed assayer at Dresden by Elector Augustus, an enthusiastic admirer of alchemy and metallurgy.
A year later, when Ercker dedicated a book to the Elector, he became chief consultant and supervisor in all matters relating to the mineral arts and mint affairs for Freiberg, Annaberg, and Schneeberg, but was soon demoted for unkown reasons. However, he retained a position in the mint at Annaberg.
Autumn 1558, Prince Henry of Brunswick made him first warden and then master of the mint at Goslar.
1567, (wife died and) he returned to Dresden, where he sought a position with Elector Augustus but failed because of intrigue and an unsucessful attempt to obtain silver from poor ores.
Then went to Prague where his brother-in-law, Caspar Richter, was a minter and through Richter's support was appointed control tester at Kutna Hora.
1574, published Beschreibung allerfürnemisten mineralischen Erzt, which brought him to the attention of Emperor Maximilian II, who named Ercker his courier for mining affairs and clerk in the Supreme Office of the Bohemian crown.
During the reign of the next emperor, Rudolf II, a well- known patron of alchemists, Ercker became (1583) Master of the mint in Prague and chief inspector of mines and was knighted (von Schreckenfels).
Ercker's second wife, Susanna, for many years was manager- mistress of the mint at Kutna Hora. Both his sons were assayers.
8. Patronage
Type: Court Official
Augustus, elector of Saxony. Dedicated his first book to Augustus in 1556.
Dedicated his principal work (1574) to the Emperor Maximilian II.
Maximilian II and Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperors. Various in-laws helped him contact these patrons.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Metallurgy
Note that his whole career was explicitly directed to the practical goals of metallurgy and mining.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. Gümbel, "Erker", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 6 (1885), 214 -- not much new.
  2. E. V. Armstron and H. S. Lukens, "Lazarus Ercker and his `Probierbuch'. Sir John Pettus and His `Fleta Minor,'" Journal of Chemical Education, 16 (1939), 553 - 562.
  3. P. R. Beierlein, Lazarus Ercker, Bergmann, Hüttenmann und Münzmeister in 16. Jahrhundert, (Berlin, 1955), Freiburger Forschungschrifte -- best biography.
  4. Partington, History of Chemistry, 2, 104-7.
  5. Not consulted: Beierlein, Beschreibung der aller-vornehmsten mineralischen Erze und Bergwersarten vom Jahre 1580 (Berlin, 1960), passim.
  6. J. Ferguson, in Bibliotheca chemica, 1, (Glasgow, 1906), 242-5.
  7. A. Wrany, Geschichte der Chemy (Prague, 1902), p. 91.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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