Becher, Johann Joachim
Johann Joachim Becher, engraving by P. Kilian
Becher, Johann Joachim, b. Speyer (Germany), May 6, 1635, d. London (United Kingdom), Oct. 1682, economist and political scientist, physician and chemist. After years of study and travels in Germany, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands he worked as a personal physician in Mainz and Munich, from 1666 at the Imperial Court in Vienna, where a commercial committee as a central authority for economic affairs was created at his suggestion, left Austria again but returned 1670 to be appointed alchemist and economic adviser to Emperor Leopold I. In the meantime his silk manufacturing plant had been established in Walpersdorf (Lower Austria, 1666-1678) and the First Oriental Trade Company had been founded in 1667; he proceeded to set up a House of Arts and Crafts in Vienna as a model work shop (1676-1683). 1679 he resumed his travels and journeyed widely throughout the Netherlands and England. With his mercantilist theories, B. was ahead of his time, although he seldom managed to put his ideas into practice. Was the first to succeed in extracting lighting gas from hard coal; his treatises dealt with theology, philosophy, chemistry and economics.
Works: Physica subterranea, 1667-1669, German 1680 and 1703 (natural philosophy); Moral Discurs, 1669; Methodus didactica, 21674 (philosophical pedagogical paper); Polit. Discurs von den eigentl. Ursachen des Auf- und Abnehmens der Städte, Länder und Republiken, 21673; Psychosophia, 1674 (his experience of the world); Närrische Weisheit, 1682 (inventions); Chym. Glückshafen, 1682.
Literature: H. Hassinger, J. J. B. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Merkantilismus, 1951 (with catalogue of works); G. Frühsorge and G. F. Strasser, J. J. B. (1635-1682), 1993; NDB.