Biography of Franz Ludwig Von Cancrin
Franz Ludwig von Cancrin (Cancrinus), prominent mining man, metallurgist and mineralogist, was born February 21, 1738, at Breitenbach, jurisdiction Gohren, Hessen-Darmstadt, His forebears were largely ministers and mining managers. The original family name Krebs (or Crab) became latinized to Cancrin or Cancrinus. His paternal grandfather, Paul Daniel Cancrin, a minister at Doernhagen by Kassel, stemmed from an old family of ministers whose original name was Krebs. Cancrin’s father, Johann Heinrich (1710–1768), mine manager at Breitenbach, Hessia, later became manager of mines and mine inspector at Bieber by Hanau, and a member of the Imperial Russian Mining Company at Nowgorod.
Cancrin’s mother, Anna Catharina, was the daughter of Georg Wendelin Fresenius, a mine inspector at Bieber, who stemmed from an old Hessian family of ministers and scholars. Both the paternal and maternal great-grandfathers were preachers. The earlier ancestors wore mainly from the military; on the paternal side they were from the Germany aristocracy, on the maternal side from the Swedish nobility. One of them, at the age of ten, remained in Germany after his father was killed in a battle during the thirty-year war.
In 1741, Johann Cancrin left his service in the district of Darmstadt and moved his family to Bieber at Gelnhausen to assume the management of the local mir.e in the County of Hanau. Thus, the early childhood of Franz Cancrinus was spent in Bieber, Hessen, were the local school provided the ycung boy his primary education, which lacked nothing to prepare him for higher studies. His father supervised his mathematical and scientific training, and the young Franz displayed a strong inclination and aptitude toward construction and mechanics
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Cancrinus’ work, First Principles of the Science of Mining and Salt Mining, which was published in twelve volumes between the years 1773 and 1791 in Frankfurt, Germany, was the first attempt to organize and coordinate the existing mineralogical, geologic, and engineering knowledge of its day into a comprehensive tome of applied technology. It was translated into Russian, and parts of it into French, and was considered the most complete standard work of reference at the time. As such it documents the achieved knowledge of the time as well as its errors and misconceptions. For this reason it is an important artifact in the history of science and technology. Then, as now, it would appear that technology lagged behind science. Library investigation has revealed that this work was published as twelve volumes in ten books. This translated volume is the first part containing the mineralogy.