On 06 March 1787, Joseph Fraunhofer (1787–1826) was born in Straubing, Germany. Though orphaned at the age of 11, he was able to apprentice as a glassmakers Philipp Anton Weichelsberger and Georg von Reichenbach, where the undertook research on optical glasses and achromatic telescope lenses at the Institute at Benediktbeuern, a secularised Benedictine monastery. His work led to the discovery of the Fraunhofer lines, i.e. the absorption spectrum of solar rays.
More information on the Benedictine monastery.
“In order to construct his lenses, Fraunhofer drew upon the architectural space and layout of a secularized Benedictine monastery — an architecture that instantiated three elements critical to the Rule of Saint Benedict: labor, silence and secrecy. A study of Fraunhofer can, therefore, offer an insight into the more general relationships between the scientific enterprise and architectural space…
“Entrance to Fraunhofer’s laboratory (B in figure 3.10) was limited to those workers of Benediktbeuern who had optical expertise. The laboratory was built within the monks’ cells, which were designed to reflect the importance of silence in the Rule of St. Benedict. Although it was therefore private, visiting opticians and experimental natural philosophers were taken there so Fraunhofer could demonstrate to them his technique of calibrating achromatic lenses. By showing visitors how he used the dark lines of the spectrum in producing achromatic lenses, rather than how the lenses were actually constructed, Fraunhofer ensured his institute’s optical hegemony.”
According the The Catholic Encyclopedia (1909):
“As a Christian, Fraunhofer was faithful and observant even in details. The simple inscription on his tomb reads: ‘Approximaverit sidera’ [He will have drawn near the stars]. His important memoirs were first published in ‘Denkschriften’ of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the one on refraction, spectra, and lines in 1817, and that on diffraction and its laws in 1821.”
— Jackson, Myles W. Spectrum of Belief: Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 77,80.
— Fox, William. “Joseph von Fraunhofer.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. (New York, NY: Robert Appleton Company, 1909).
Images: “Joseph von Fraunhofer” by Rudolf Wimmer (1849–1915), Deutsches Museum, Berlin; Book cover: http://amzn.to/2FMA1X9