He was educated for the medical profession and graduated in 1837 at Berlin University. In 1841 he became privatdozent in the university, and in 1845 professor extraordinary of chemistry. He relinquished this post in 1851 to take the chair of chemistry and mineralogy at the Royal Industrial Institute. In 1874 he was appointed professor of inorganic chemistry, and director of the second chemical laboratory at Berlin.
Distinguished for his research on mineralogy, crystallography and analytical chemistry, he also studied metallurgy, yet found time to write a series of important textbooks, including:
Handwörterbuch des chemischen Teils der Mineralogie (2 vols, 1841; supp. 1843–53)
Lehrbuch der chemischen Metallurgie (1850)
Handbuch der Krystallographischen Chemie (1855)
Handbuch der Mineralchemie (1860)
Handbuch der Krystallographisch-physikalischen Chemie (2 vols, 1881–82), some of the earlier works being incorporated in later and more comprehensive volumes with different titles.