The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Becker, Rudolf Zacharias
BECKER, Rudolf Zacharias, German author: b. Erfurt, 9 April 1752; d. 28 March 1822. He first became known by an essay on the theme, “Is it useful to deceive the people?” which gained a prize from the Berlin Academy of Sciences in 1799. His theory was that happiness depended on the gratification of an innate desire for improvement. In 1782 he took charge of a school at Dessau and published a journal for youth. A work in two volumes, entitled ‘A Little Book of Needful Help; or, Instructive Tales of Joy and Sorrow in the Village of Mildheim,’ became such a favorite with the public that over 500,000 copies were soon disposed of. He also produced other works and journals, and the extensive transactions in them led him, in 1797, to set up a publishing and bookselling establishment at Gotha, which is still continued by his son. On 30 Nov. 1811 he was arrested by Davoust on suspicion of conspiring against Napoleon, and was imprisoned at Magdeburg till April 1813. On this imprisonment he wrote a book, which still has a historical value.