Novalis and the salt, iron and steel industries
The homeland of Friedrich von Hardenberg, the Kurfürstentum of Saxony, has been one of the world's most important mining centres for many centuries now. The raw materials extracted from the mines in Saxony were used by the foundries, saltworks and "mining factories" in the area not only to produce silver, tin and lead but also gold, copper, bismuth, zinc and mercury as well as arsenic compounds, sulphur, vitriols, alum, sulphuric acid, cooking salt and cobalt dyes for the ceramics industry. All these manufacturing processes were taught, scientifically researched and often developed into leading-edge technologies at the Freiberg Mining Academy. This interaction between theory and practice, which was unknown at the other universities of the time, gave Novalis a host of ideas for his philosophical work, "Philosophy of daily life", in which he set out to unite all sciences and arts.
Some points of contact between theory and practice in the Saxon mining industry and Friedrich von Hardenberg's edifice of ideas are discussed in the following article. It starts by outlining Novalis‘s family connections to the salt-mining industry, then goes on to follow his studies of chemistry under the tuition of Wilhelm August Lampadius, as well as of mining art and mineralogy under Abraham Gottlob Werner. Furthermore, the article deals with the iron and steel industry of that time and Novalis‘s contributions to the implementation of the latest theoretical knowledge as the state of the art.