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Leopold Frommer

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Leopold Frommer ( -1943)


1943 Obituary [1]

Metallurgical science suffered a serious loss at the beginning of 1943 by the untimely death of Dr. Leopold Frommer.

Born of Polish parents, Leopold Frommer was educated and spent most of his life in Germany. He obtained his diploma in mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Berlin (Charlottenburg), where he studied under Professor Dr. Georg Schlesinger. His studies on "The Accurate Manufacture of Gears were published in 1924 in the leading German periodicals. From this, he went on to specialize in die-casting, and his doctorate thesis in 1926 was entitled "Investigations on the Flow of Metal in Die-Casting and the Rules for the Shaping of the Mould in Die-Casting Machines. Incidentally, in recent years his theories on this subject have first been contested and later confirmed by German investigators.

In 1933, while he was shop engineer of the Die-Casting Division of Loewe Gesfurel A.G., Berlin, he published his monumental work, "Handbuch der Spritzgusstechnik," which is still the standard book on the subject.

Among the first of Germany's scientific men to fall a victim of Nazi oppression, he came to this country in 1934. His first engagement here was secured through Mr. W. C. Devereux, whom he had met in 1929 when he was engaged on research at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut fur Physikalische Chemie and Elektrochemie in Berlin-Dahlem. It was as consultant to Rolls-Royce, Ltd., in connection with some German patent litigation in which Mr. Devereux's Company, High Duty Alloys, Ltd., was also interested. (He was a leading technical expert on German patent law.) Mr. Devereux had long appreciated Dr. Frommer's great abilities and engaged him as consultant, at first on die-casting and then on the development of methods for the measurement of internal stresses in aluminium alloys through the medium of X-ray crystallography, which had been started in the H.D.A. Research Laboratories.

Shortly afterwards, in 1936, he joined the permanent staff as Research Metallurgist. Besides X-ray crystallography, there were two other research projects which had just been initiated, viz., spectrographic analysis and colorimetric analysis. He was given the task of applying all these to the routine testing of light alloys. Thus, he had in his charge three embryo departments and a huge pro- gramme of work. There could have been no better choice, sire it was one of his most outstanding qualities that he was able to build a department on the foment foundations and control several departments simultaneously. He immediately started his attack on all three problems with tremendous energy — his impatience to get results and his extraordinary attention to detail soon became a by-word amongst his colleagues. His work on spectrographic and colorimetric analysis was the first to be completed, and the departments were handed over for routine analysis. In X-ray physics and metallurgy, he built up a laboratory for the measurements of stresses in industrial light-alloy components, and adapted to these coarse-grained materials the methods previously used only for steels and other fine-grained materials. This work was of great practical value in connection with the development and improvement of manufacturing methods.

He was also engaged in research work on the problems of strain, plastic flow, and fracture of metals. In addition to this, of course, he handled the day-to-day work of the X-ray physicist—problems of cold work, crystal texture and orientation, identification, &c.

In 1939, he undertook the additional task of investigating the internal friction of light alloys. He developed a technique which incorporates many novel features and which has afforded much information of both scientific and practical interest. It is unfortunate that most of his work on these two subjects remains unpublished at the time of his death. It was characteristic of the man that once he had obtained his results, he grudged the time necessary for writing reports and much preferred to devote his energies to the next stage of the work in hand. When he died very comprehensive reports of his work on internal friction and X-ray crystallography were in the course of preparation for publication. He was a prodigious worker, never sparing him- self and always urging his assistants to greater efforts.

He was a most resourceful experimenter, and the apparatus which he designed for applying both X-ray crystallography and internal-friction measurement to large aircraft components are monuments to his resourcefulness. He died following an operation on January 27, 1943, at the age of 50, when he was on the very threshold of the scientific achievement and recognition which were his greatest ambitions and for which he worked with such relentless energy.

Dr. Frommer became a member of the Institute of Metals in 1938, and subsequently published two papers in the Journal: "The Estimation of Cold-Work from X-Ray Diffraction Patterns" (1939, 64, 285), and " Notes on an X-Ray Investigation into Cold-Rolled Magnesium Alloy Sheet" (1941, 67, 361). In addition he made a notable contribution to the " Discussion on the Industrial Application of Spectrography in the Non-Ferrous Metal Industry" (1939, 64, 396). The two reports mentioned above on internal friction and the X-ray determination of residual stresses in metals are due to appear in the Journal early in 1944.

Professor M. POLANYI writes: "My connection with Dr. Frommer was through his work as a physical chemist. He acted as my assistant at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut fur Physikalische Chemie in Berlin-Dahlem from 1928 to 1933, with considerable interruptions, which had to be made when Frommer was engaged in completing his book on die-casting.

"Frommer turned to physical chemistry after achieving remarkable success in engineering. His resolution to forego the fruits of his practical career, which at that time were rapidly multiplying, for the sake of purely scientific interests, stands out as an example of devotion to pure science. Equally remarkable, perhaps, proved Frommer's ability to absorb the latest advances of science which he met as a novice after a number of years spent in the pursuit of purely practical problems. He embarked with burning zeal on re-educating himself as a physical chemist. His skill and perseverance in experimental work were also of a high order and so it did not take him long to produce a number of papers which represented useful contributions to the study of chemical kinetics.

"Dr. Frommer's idealism and courage showed itself in the most striking manner during the spring and summer of 1933, which were to mark the enforced end of his career as a physical chemist. He was given three months' notice of dismissal from his post by the Nazis in April 1933. But throughout the following months, while the upheaval threatening to engulf him and his family was in full swing, Frommer kept to his work. He stuck to his experiments to the last as a soldier sticks to his guns. He had undertaken the difficult task of establishing a new method for measuring very fast reaction rates, and all through the period of three months that was left to him he went on labouring long hours of the day and night—well knowing how slender the chances were that he could ever continue the work for which he was preparing the tools. Not before the very last day on which he was forced to leave, did he desist : and by that time his work was substantially completed and was ready for publication. I shall always look back upon this episode with sincere admiration for Frommer's courage and devotion."


1943 Obituary [2]



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Sources of Information

  1. 1943 Institute of Metals: Obituaries
  2. The Engineer 1943 Jan-Jun: Index