Friedrich Gottlob Keller

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Friedrich Gottlob Keller
Friedrich Gottlob Keller - 1816 to 1895.jpg
Friedrich Gottlob Keller
Born June 27, 1816
Hainichen, Saxony
Died November 8, 1895(1895-11-08)
Krippen, Saxony
Residence Hainichen (Saxony), Krippen (Saxony)
Nationality German
Occupation mechanic, machinist, binder, inventor
Known for The invention of wood pulp for the production of paper
Awards "Merit of Invention" by the German Government for his invention of the wood-cut machine for making pulp wood

Friedrich Gottlob Keller (born June 27, 1816 in Hainichen, Saxony – died September 8, 1895 in Krippen, Saxony) was a German machinist and inventor, who (at the same time as Charles Fenerty) invented the wood pulp process for the use in papermaking. He is widely known for his wood-cut machine (used for extracting the fibres needed for pulping wood). Unlike Charles Fenerty, F.G. Keller took out a patent for his wood-cut invention.[1]

History of paper (before 1844)[edit]

Main article: History of paper

Before wood pulp, paper was made from rags. Papermaking began in Egypt (see Papyrus) c3000 BC. And in 105 AD, Ts'ai Lun[2] a Chinese inventor, invented modern papermaking using rags, cotton, and other plant fibres by pulping it. Then in the 18th century a French scientist by the name of René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur suggested that paper could be made from trees.[3] Though he never experimented himself, his theory caught the interest of others, namely Matthias Koops. In 1800 Koops published a book on papermaking made from straw. Its outer covers were made from trees. His method wasn't like Fenerty's (pulping wood); instead he simply ground the wood and adhered it together. His book does not mention anything to do with wood pulping.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Keller spent his childhood and youth working for his father as a weaver and leaf-binder in Hainichen, Saxony (north-eastern Germany). But he was very unhappy. His interests were in machines. Keller carried with him an "idea-book", where he jotted down all these different kinds of machines. He had subscriptions to many of the leading publications on machines, and was well read in the sciences on mechanics. In his latter years he recalled an article he read in his youth about the works of the French mathematician René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur.[3] He took great interest in Réaumur's works, and was curious about his efforts in finding a method for making paper from trees. Réaumur himself never pursued the idea (later saying in 1742, "I am ashamed not yet to have tried this [paper making from trees] experiment since it is more than twenty years since I have realized the importance of it and since I have announced it."). It was an idea that stuck with Keller. And in 1841 the 25-year-old Keller jotted down in his "idea-book" about a wood-cut machine; a machine that could extract the fibres from trees for the use in pulped wood paper making.[3]

The F.G. Keller wood-grinding machine c.1854

Keller's invention[edit]

From 1841 (after noting his idea), Keller worked eagerly on his wood-cut machine. He had spent most of his life so far with his father as a weaver and binder, and making attempts on inventing all sorts of machines. But this wood-cut machine became his true passion, which he remained dedicated to over the following three years (from 1841 to 1844). In 1844 he completed his work and produced a piece of pulped wood paper from his wood-cut machine. In the summer of 1844 he sent in a sample paper to the German government. He wanted to get financial support for an improved wood-grinder machine and to develop papermaking further, but was declined. This is interesting because both Charles Fenerty and F.G. Keller started at the same time, and made their discovery public at the same time, and at the same time found that no one was interested in it. But Keller remained dedicated. Since he couldn’t get national support, Keller sold his invention to a paper specialist, Heinrich Voelter, for about £80. A patent was granted to Keller in August 1845, in Saxony, Germany, in both names (Keller and Voelter), and Voelter began production on a mass scale. Voelter did not want to leave Keller at first because only Keller possessed the knowledge to build a suitable wood-grinding machine. But eventually that changed. After 1848 the first machines came out, and in 1852 the renewal of the patent came due, but Keller did not have the money to renew his part of the patent. Therefore, Voelter was the sole patent holder and continued the work, in large profit, without Keller.[3]

Latter years[edit]

Heinrich Voelter remained the sole patent holder, leaving Keller unemployed and penniless. The wood-grinding machine was a success though. Voelter had sold many throughout Europe and the Americas. By 1852 ground-wood pulped paper was being produced regularly in the mill of "H. Voelter’s Sons" in Heidenheim, Germany. The "Frankenberger Intelligence and Weekly" (in Saxony, Germany) was the first newspaper to use Keller’s invention; pulped wood newsprint. It took a couple decades for newspaper and book printers to get comfortable which the idea of using pulped wood instead of pulped rags, but by the 1860s the new process had gained much popularity, and the transition began. By the end of the 19th-century there were few remaining printers (in the western world) using rags in lieu of wood for paper making. Throughout his life, Keller received no royalties from his invention. In 1870 he received from a number of German paper makers and other associations a small sum of money, which he used to buy a house in Krippen, Germany. Then towards the end of his life, various countries put together a fair sum of money for him, enough for a worry-free retirement, and he also received several awards in recognition of his invention.[3]


  • Beneke, Klaus. Friedrich Gottlob Keller - Erfinder des Holzschleifers (27.06.1816 Hainichen (Sachsen) - 08.09.1895 Krippen bei Schandau (Sachsen)) Digitalisat (pdf, 196 kb)
  • Gemeinde Krippen (Hg.): 1379-1979. 600 Jahre Krippen. Heimatkundlicher Lehrpfad durch Krippen, Pirna 1979
  • Sittauer, H. L. Der Papiermüller von Kühnhaide, Berlin 1980
  • Sittauer, H. L. Friedrich Gottlob Keller. Biographien hervorragender Naturwissenschaftler, Techniker und Mediziner Bd. 59, Leipzig 1982
  • Burger, Peter. Charles Fenerty and his Paper Invention. Toronto: Peter Burger, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9783318-1-8
  • Koops, Matthias. Historical account of the substances which have been used to describe events, and to convey ideas, from the earliest date, to the invention of paper. London: Printed by T. Burton, 1800.
  • Pönicke, Herbert. “Keller, Friedrich Gottlob”. Neue Deutsche Biographie. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1977.
  • Schlieder, Wolfgang. Der Erfinder des Holzschliffs Friedrich Gottlob Keller. Leipzig, Germany: Veb Fachbuchverlag Leipzig, 1977.
  • Sittauer, Hans L. Friedrich Gottlob Keller. Leipzig: BSB B.G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, 1982.
  • Walther Killy and Rudolf Vierhaus. “Keller, Friedrich Gottlob”. Deutsche Biographische Enzyklopädie. München: Die Deutsche Bibliothek, 1997.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Burger, Peter. Charles Fenerty and his Paper Invention. Toronto: Peter Burger, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9783318-1-8 pp.28, 33-34
  2. ^ Burger, Peter. Charles Fenerty and his Paper Invention. Toronto: Peter Burger, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9783318-1-8 pp.28, 30, 82
  3. ^ a b c d e Burger, Peter. Charles Fenerty and his Paper Invention. Toronto: Peter Burger, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9783318-1-8 pp.30-33
  4. ^ Burger, Peter. Charles Fenerty and his Paper Invention. Toronto: Peter Burger, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9783318-1-8 pp.30-32
  5. ^ Even in some books mentioning Koops' discovery will say or suggest that his book was made partially from wood pulp. But this is not the case. Koops clearly outlines his method for making paper from straw and trees. The closes he ever got was taking wood shavings and adhering them and pressing them together to make a sheet of paper.

External links[edit]