Friedrich Keller was born in Hainichen, Saxony, Germany, on June 27, 1816. He spent his childhood and youth working for his father as a weaver and leaf-binder but was not happy. He was interested in machines and kept with him an “idea book”, where he noted different types of machines.
Based on the 18th century French scientist Rene Antoine Ferchault de Reaumur’s article that paper could be made from trees, the 25 year old Keller, in 1841, noted down in his idea book a wood-grinding machine that could extract fibers from trees for use in papermaking. In 1844, he produced an experimental machine and made a sheet of wood-containing paper. He sent a sample to his government, asking for financial support to develop commercial machines and support further research. His appeal was rejected.
Keller then sold his invention to a papermaker, Heinrich Voelter, for about USD$300. A patent was granted to Keller in 1845 in both Keller’s and Voelter’s names. Voelter began production on a larger scale, and in 1848, the first of several wood grinding machines was produced. In 1852 the renewal of the patent came due, but Keller did not have the money to renew his part of the patent. Therefore, Voelter was the only parent holder and the work and subsequent considerable profit did not come to Keller, leaving him unemployed and penniless.
The first groundwood pulp was produced commercially in the US in 1867. In 1868 the first issue of newspaper based on wood was published in New York but the German “Staats-Zeitung” and in 1873 by the New York Times.
In recognition for his invention, Keller received several awards including the “Merit of Invention” from German government. In addition to his greatest invention of the wood-grinding machine. Keller also invented a tree diameter measuring device, a machine for producing buttons and an apparatus for sharpening pens.
Friedrich Keller died in Krippen, Germany on November 8, 1895.