He was born in Nordhausen. He studied at the Academy of Architecture in Berlin, and was afterwards appointed an instructor in the School of Design of the Industrial Institute there. In 1844 he was appointed a professor of tectonics (architectonics) at the Academy of Architecture.
In 1853 he received his doctorate from the University of Greifswald, and later worked as a lecturer at the University of Berlin (until 1862). In 1868 he was appointed director of the sculpture department at the Berlin Museum.
His chief work is the "Tektonik der Hellenen" (Architectonics of the Greeks; 1844–52), a contribution to the study of Ancient Greek architecture. Others of his works are:
- Holzarchitektur des Mittelalters (Wooden architecture of the Middle Ages; 1835–41).
- Das grab des Dionysos. An der marmorbasis zu Dresden, (1858).
- Der Omphalos des Zeus zu Delphi, (1859)
- Bericht über die Untersuchungen auf der Akropolis in Athen (1863).
- Der Zophoros am Parthenon (1875).
- Die Thymele der Athena Nike auf der Akropolis von Athen (1880).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Bötticher, Karl". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Breitschmid, Markus. Can architectural art-form be designed out of construction? Carl Boetticher, Gottfried Semper, and Heinrich Woelfflin: a sketch of various investigations on the nature of "Tectonic" in nineteenth-century architectural theory, (Blacksburg: Architecture Edition, 2004). ISBN 978-0-9702820-8-8
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