Frenzel, Friedrich August

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Frenzel, Friedrich August

(b. Freiberg, Germany, 24 May 1842; d. Freiberg, 27 August 1902)


Frenzel was a member of a family of miners and from 1861 to 1865 studied at a mining school in Freiberg, graduating with the title of mine inspector. He then worked as timberman in a prospecting mine and simultaneously attended lectures and laboratory courses at the Mining Academy; he was permitted to do so because he had graduated from mining school with excellent marks. During this period Frenzel also gave lessons in mineralogy and chemistry to foreigners studying in Freiberg. In 1868 he became an employee of the state mines and in 1874 was promoted to mine chemist. He held this post for over a quarter of a century and, beginning in 1883, lectured also in mineralogy and geognosy at the Royal Mining School. Early in 1902 he became head of the laboratory of the main mining administration.

While studying at the Mining Academy, Frenzel attended lectures by prominent scientists: the chemist-mineralogist A. Breithaupt, the geologist Bernhard Cotta, the chemist Theodor Scheerer, and the mineralogist Theodor Richter, who influenced the formation of his interests. Decisive for all of Frenzel’s subsequent scientific activity was Breithaupt’s trusting him with technical work and, later, with scientific research as well.

In a short time Frenzel became a qualified specialist noted for the exceptional carefulness of his determinations. Beginning in 1870, he published articles on the description of individual minerals.

In 1871, while studying rocks from the Pucher mine in Saxony, Frenzel discovered a previously unknown bismuth vanadate and named the new mineral pucherite. A year later he described two other new minerals: miriquidite (arsenate and phosphate of lead and iron) and heterogenite (hydrous oxide of cobalt containing an admixture of copper).

In 1874 Frenzel’s Mineralogisches Lexikon für das Königreich Sachsen was published at Leipzig. It contained descriptions of 723 minerals that gave their physical properties and chemical composition. This handbook became very popular among geologists and brought widespread recognition to its author.

During the next few years Frenzel discovered five more minerals: in 1881, lautite (CuAsS), named for the Lauta deposit in Saxony; in 1882, rezbanyite, a complex compound of copper, lead, and bismuth found in the ores of Rézbánya deposit in Hungary (now Băiṭa, Rumania); in 1888, amarantite and hohmannite, iron sulfates from Ehrenfriedersdorf, that were of similar composition; and in 1893, cylindrite, a sulfostannate of lead and antimony found in silver-tin veins. He also described several other minerals which he thought were new species but which later proved to have been previously described. Frenzel published some fifty mineralogical papers, the majority of which are still valuable as references.

Frenzel was in constant contact with a number of prominent scientists of his time. He was especially friendly with the German mineralogists Gerhard vom Rath and Carl Hintze and the Russian geochemistmineralogist Andreas Arzruni. He was a foreign member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers (1873) and a member of the German Geological Society (1875).

As a long-time officer of the Naturalists’ Society of Freiberg he sought to arouse interest in research on natural history. A great help in this respect was his ábility as a lecturer. A passionate collector, Frenzel assembled two large collections of minerals. He was also interested in ornithology; he wrote and edited numerous articles for the monthly publication of the German Society for the Protection of Birds.


Frenzel’s papers include “Pucherit,” in Journal für praktische Chemie, 4 (1871), 227–231, 361–362; “Heterogeint”, ibid., 5 (1872), 401–408; “Miriquidit,” in Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, und Paläontologie (Stuttgart, 1874), 673–687; “Über Lautit und Trichlorit”, in Tschermaks mineralogische und petrographische Mitteilungen, 4 (1882), 97; “Rezbanyit”, ibid., 5 (1883), 178–188; “Hohmannit und Amarantit”, ibid., 9 (1888), 397–400; and “Über den Kylindrit”, in Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie, pt. 2 (1893), 125–128.

An obituary is R. Beck, “Friedrich August Frenzel. Nekrolog”, in Zentralblatt für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie (1902), 641–646, which includes a bibliography of forty-six titles.

V. V. Tikhomirov

T. A. Sofiano