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PRECHTL, Johann Joseph von

* 16. 11. 1778, Bischofsheim near Fulda, Germany
† 18. 10. 1854, Vienna, Austria


Due to his activity as the founder and first director of Polytechnical Institute in Vienna, P. is regarded the pioneer of technical education in Austria.
He was born in 1778 as the third child of Johann Bartholomew Friedrich P. and his wife Anne Marie Brunner. His father was a manager in a steel furnace of Würzbur Prince in Bischofsheimu next to Fulda and he worked as a city clerk in Stadtlauringen from 1785. After high school, P. studied philosophy, theology and legal sciences in Würzburg from 1801/02 to 1796. In 1802 he went to Vienna to become a court councilor, but has already in 1803 accepted the post of a court teacher and educator at Count Johann Taaffe near Brno.
Here he wrote an humanistic educational book, entitled "Ueber die Fehler in der Erziehung" (Errors in education, 1804). In those years P. made his acquaintance with naturalist Christian Andre in Brno, whose daughter Rosa he married in 1809 and Hugo the Count of Salm-Reifferscheidt, the owner of the smeltery in Blansko and sugar factory in Raitz.
Between 1811 and 1823 he and his wife had a total of nine children. In 1809 P. was in Brno and he received a call from Emperor Franz II. to set up secondary modern school in Trieste and to assume its management and organization. But before he could actually assume this position, Trieste was surrendered according to the Treaty of Schönbrunn in October 1809.
When he returned to Vienna, he taught natural science, chemistry, physics, art classes and how to print on the cotton at St. Anna secondary modern school from 1810 to 1814. At that time, his activity in the field of natural sciences and technical subjects coincided with the beginning of the preparatory work for the establishment of Polytechnic Institute in Vienna. In 1810 he handed over the draft of the organizational plan to the president of the court chamber.
Despite the opposition of Franz Joseph → Gerstner, in Prague in December 1814 he achieved his appointment as the first Director of the Polytechnic Institute, where he began lecturing in November 1815. P.’s most important achievement was the formulation and implementation of organizational plan of the Institute, approved in 1817, which was the forerunner of today's Technical University. The main idea of the school was "Freedom to learn".
After studying with Karl → Karmarsch and Ferdinand → Redtenbacher in Vienna, the first two were called to set up a school in Hanover and in Karlsruhe and P. founded the Vienna School of Technology, which became well-known throughout the world. From 1819 to 1839 P. issued twenty volumes of the Imperial Polytechnic Institute Yearbook in Vienna as a Director and as a scientist, from 1830 to 1854 another twenty volumes of Technological encyclopedia, one of the most important reference works on the technique used in the first half of the 19th century. P. was also active in the practical field and, together with Johann Arzberger he introduced black coal gas lighting at the Institute in 1816. In 1823 he introduced a new portable altimeter to the barometric pressure (baroscope).
P. was a founding member of the Imperial Academy of scientists in Vienna (1847) and was after his retirement elevated to knighthood.

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