Fritz Wüst and the Central Issue of Metal Research

In the spring of 1917, Professor Dr. Fritz Wüst, then head of the Eisenhüttenmännisches Institut der Technischen Hochschule (TH) Aachen, wrote a memorandum concerning both the status quo of metallurgy in Germany and the establishment of a metal research institution which he submitted to the Prussian Ministry of Education as well as to the VDEh (Assocation of German Steel Manufacturers).[1] In this memorandum, Wüst, who was later appointed to be the first managing director of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Eisenforschung (KWIE), accurately described not only the central issue of metal research valid to this day but also the guidelines of the institute.

„It now seems to me completely out of the question that the industry should disengage from the principle of secrecy, which means that any quick advancement of our metallurgical knowledge can only be expected to come from a research institute. Although the university institutions have brought forth much that is of value, they will always remain limited in their production capabilities due to the fact that a large share of the work only progresses slowly because of the participation of untrained workers (students, doctoral candidates) and can only partly be described as scientific progress. A pure research institute is free from such constraints. [...] It will be advisable for the institute not to limit its activities to iron and steel but to extend them to the other metals and alloys of technical importance since only then the interrelations of metals, the similarities and deviations of their properties, their production and processing potentials can be fully recognized and utilized.“[2]

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[1] cf. Dönges, Wilhelm: Geschichte und Entwicklung des Kaiser-Wilhelm-Instituts für Eisenforschung zu Düsseldorf, in: Mitteilungen aus dem Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Eisenforschung zu Düsseldorf, vol. XXV, Düsseldorf 1942, p. 4 and Flachowsky, Sören: Von der Wagenburg der Autarkie zu transnationaler Zusammenarbeit. Der Verein Deutscher Eisenhüttenleute und das KWI/MPI für Eisenforschung 1917-2009, in: Maier, Helmut; Zilt, Andreas; Rasch, Manfred (publ.): 150 Jahre Stahlinstitut VDEh 1860-2010, Essen 2010, p. 671-708, p. 675.

[2] Wüst, Fritz: „Über die Entwicklung, den Stand metallurgischer Erkenntnis in Deutschland und über die Mittel zu deren Förderung“, memorandum dated 12th March, 1917, MPG Archives, D 2.

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