History of Fraunhofer

Fraunhofer USA

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft owes its name to Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787-1826), the successful Munich researcher, inventor and entrepreneur. The story of his life and works clearly indicates why he was chosen as the role model for our organization.

Born of a family of modest means, Joseph von Fraunhofer was a glass-grinding apprentice when discovered by the privy counsellor Joseph von Utzschneider. He took up employ in the latter’s Optical Institute and, at the age of 22, became the director of glass manufacturing. He was responsible for the development of new methods of glass production and processing.

The optical instruments he himself developed, including the spectrometer and the diffraction grid, allowed Fraunhofer to conduct fundamental research in the fields of light and optics. He was the first to measure the spectrum of sunlight and characterize the dark absorption strips it contains: the "Fraunhofer lines". His independent, autodidactic work won him great acclaim from industry and government. The former apprentice became a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.

The Beginnings of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

As it stands today, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has attained a size and influence that makes it an undisputedly vital element in Germany’s industrial and scientific landscape. But the early years were far from easy. The research organization was founded in 1949, in the same year as the Federal Republic of Germany, and started out as a small office with just three employees. The original purpose of the non-profit organization was to distribute grants and donations for research of direct relevance to industry. The impressive march of progress as seen and experienced by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is documented in the Chronicle.

Fraunhofer Chronicle

 2010-2014: Growth in Crisis

2000-2009: New Strategies and Concepts for the Future

1990-1999: Integration of New Institutes and Setting Up of Internal Alliances

1983-1989: Growth and Consolidation

1972-1982: Introducing and Testing the Fraunhofer Model

1966-1971: Setting a New Course for Expansion

1955-1965: Integration Into the German Scientific Community

1949-1954: Foundation, Orientation, Assertion. The Opening Years of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft