Skip to main content

Müller, Franz (Ferenc), Baron De Reichenstein


(b. Nagyszeben, Transylvania [now Sibiu. Rumania], 1 July 1740; (d. Vienna, Austria, 12 October 1825)


Müller, the son of a treasury official, was educated in Nagyszeben and then studied law in Vienna. By then he had become interested in chemistry and mineralogy and went to Selmecb´nya (Schemnitz, in Hungary), where a short time earlier one of the world’s first mining academies had been opened. There he studied mining and metallurgy under N. J. Jacquin. After completing his studies in 1768, Müller entered the service of the state saltworks in Transylvania; later he was active in mining in southern Hungary. From 1775 to 1778 he was director of the state mines in the Tirol; and from 1778 to 1802 he directed all mining operations in Transylvania from his office in Nagyszeben. In 1802 Müller moved to Vienna to head the council that had jurisdiction over minting and mining in Austria and Hungary. He held this position until 1818. On his retirement he received the Order of St. Stephen and the title of baron.

Müller discovered the chemical element tellurium in 1784 at Nagyszeben. For several years sylvanite, an auriferous mineral from Transylvania, had been causing problems because its processing always yielded less gold than expected. Anton von Ruprecht, a former schoolmate of Müller’s and professor of chemistry at the Selmecb´nya Mining Academy, analyzed the ore in 1782 and published his finding that it contained antimony as well as gold. Müller did not share this view, asserting in print that the substance involved was bismuth. Ruprecht responded by stating the reasons it could not be bismuth. In his next publication Müller admitted his error and announced that a new, previously unrecognized semimtel was present in the ore; he also enumerated its characteristic chemical reactions [Physikalische Arbeiten der einträchtigen Freunde in wien, I , no. 2 [1783], 63).

Müller, however, did not name the new element. Instead, he sent a sample of the ore to Torbern Bergman at Uppsala, wishing to confirm his conclusion by submitting the substance for examination to the most famous analyst of the century. Bergman reported in a letter that he was starting to work on the matter, but he died soon after. Ten years later the Berlin chemist Martin Klaproth asked Müller to send him a sample. He carried out an analysis, confirmed Müller’s finding, and gave a lecture on the subject at the Berlin Academy, where he proposed that the previously unnamed element be called tellurium.

Müller also contributed to mineralogy. He discovered a variety of tourmaline and a variety of opal that is also called Müller glass.


Müller’s publications are listed in Poggendorff, II, 231.

Secondary sources include R. Jagnaux, Histoire de la chimie, I (Paris, 1891), 500–504; F. Szabadv´ry, Az elemek nyomában (“In the Traces of Elements”; Budapest, 1961), 142–148; and M. E. Weeks, Discovery of the Elements (1956), 303–304, also in Journal of Chemical Education, 12 (1935), 403.

F. SzabadvÁry

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Müller, Franz (Ferenc), Baron De Reichenstein." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . 21 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Müller, Franz (Ferenc), Baron De Reichenstein." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . (January 21, 2019).

"Müller, Franz (Ferenc), Baron De Reichenstein." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved January 21, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.