Michael Thonet (2 July 1796 - 3 March 1871) was a German-Austrian cabinet maker - the son of a master tanner. Following a carpenter's apprenticeship, Thonet set himself up as an independent cabinetmaker in 1819. In the 1830s, Thonet began trying to make furniture out of glued and bent wooden slats. Thonet's essential breakthrough was his success in having light, strong wood bent into curved, graceful shapes by forming the wood in hot steam. This enabled him to design entirely novel, elegant, lightweight, durable and comfortable furniture, which appealed strongly to fashion and whose aesthetic and functional appeal remains to this day. The 1859 coffee shop chair no. 14 is still called the ‘chair of chairs’ with some 50 million produced up until 1930. It yielded a gold medal for Thonet's enterprise at the 1867 Paris World's Fair.