Johannes Gutenberg was a German publisher who lived from 1398 to 1468. The most notable accomplishment of Johannes Gutenberg was that he invented the modern printing press, effectively replacing the old and inefficient method of printing texts and books with a new, faster and more inexpensive method.
His invention was one of the most instrumental factors contributing to the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, effectively making it possible for books to be printed quickly and read by a larger public. It also laid the foundations for public education for all, a notion which was deemed impossible before it became possible to print inexpensive books for all classes of society.
Gutenberg was born to a wealthy merchant family in Mainz in 1398. His family was traditionally associated with the trade of gold-smithing and metalwork, and Gutenberg grew up to have extensive knowledge of both skills which would eventually benefit him in his printing press.
In 1411, Gutenberg and his family had to flee Mainz following an uprising. By 1437, he was in Strasbourg and related to the trade of polishing gems. By 1439, he was deep in debt but satisfied his debtors by ensuring them that he had a secret invention.
In 1440, he began working on perfecting the art of printing as he conceived it and by 1450, he had invented a new method of printing combining his skills as a publisher, goldsmith and metalworker. His new press went into operation in 1450 but by 1456, he had run into a dispute with one of his sponsors and had to give up the ownership.
Although he was not acknowledge as the inventor of this new type of printing at the time, recognition came in 1465 and he was given the title of the Gentleman of the court, along with a stipend and other court privileges. He died in 1468.
Although there were methods of printing texts already available in 15th century Europe, Johannes Gutenberg came up with a new way of speeding up the process. He then set up a printing press in 1450 where he employed his new printing method to rapidly print books ranging from the Bible to various Latin texts.
Although his machine was successful in significantly speeding up the printing process, he ran into financial troubles and by 1455, he had to give up his printing press to one of the wealthy sponsors of his venture.
As his chief invention, the printing press of Gutenberg soon took his influence to all parts of Western Europe. Printing presses using his technique sprang up all over Europe and sped up the process of printing and disseminating classic texts as well as contemporary books.
Such inexpensive, speedy printing which had become possible all over Europe by the end of the 15th century contributed to many subsequent intellectual and political movements of Europe, including the Reformation and the French Enlightenment.
The press also contributed to the scientific revolution of the modern period, making it possible for scientific ideas to reach all parts of society and for them to be incorporated into industrial inventions.