Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Emil Messner

From Graces Guide

Emil Messner (1875-1942)


1942 Obituary [1]

Colonel E. Messner, who was distinguished both for his work in industry and as an aeronautical pioneer, died unexpectedly on May 29,1942, of apoplexy, in Geneva, while on a business journey.

Emil Messner was born at Winterthur in 1875, where he spent his childhood and went to school. After some years of practical experience as a foundryman and in the mechanical field, he entered the Winterthur College of Technology to take the degree of a Foundry Engineer.

In 1897 he joined the staff of the Iron and Steel Works, formerly Georges Fischer, Ltd., at Schaffhausen.

He left Switzerland in 1900, in order to spend several years in England (at Steam Road Roller Works; Vickers, Sons and Maxim, Barrow-in-Furness; Medway Steel Works, Rochester, Kent; B.S.A., Birmingham) and in the United States (at Dering McCormick Western Tube Co., Kewarnee, EL, &c.).

Back in his own country, he settled down at Thun and joined the Swiss Metal Works Solve and Company. For 21 years he rendered this firm valuable services as General Managing Director, and as a result of his thorough experience in the field of metallurgy and foundry work, he succeeded in developing it from small beginnings to great prosperity and to world repute.

He retired from this position in 1932, continuing, however, with his work as consulting engineer in the Swiss industry. A few years later he was elected a member of the Board of Directors of Metalworks, Ltd., Dornach. He was at the same time a member of the Board of several other Swiss enterprises, mainly in the metallurgical field (Zent A.G., Berne; Alpha A.G., Nidau; Allg. Versicherungs A.G., Berne, &c.), and in the aeronautical field (Pilatus A.G. Airplane Construction, &c.). He was also Vice-Chairman of the Swissair and Chairman of the Interavia S.A., Geneva.

In 1895 Emil Messner was called up for service. He joined the Engineers and got his commission as lieutenant. Later, he was transferred to the balloon troops and after service in the Air Force and the General Staff, he was finally promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1927.

Colonel Messner became very popular through his exploits in the Gordon-Bennett balloon races. In 1908 he participated for the first time, flying with Colonel Schaeck from Berlin to Norway. They stayed in the air for 73 hours, 43 of which were over the open sea, thus establishing a world record for duration which is still unbroken. In 1909 he and Leon Givaudan ranked second in the race which started from Zurich.

He represented Switzerland, again with Leon Givaudan, in 1910, in the race which started from St. Louis, U.S.A.. and they landed under adventurous circumstances in the wilds of the Canadian forests. The numerous and interesting pioneering flights of Colonel Messner over the Alps must also be mentioned.

Colonel Messner was one of the founders of the Swiss Aero Club and became its President in 1921. In 1927 he was elected Vice-President of the International Aeronautical Federation and was a well-known personality in international aeronautical circles. The last years of his life he spent at Gut Rosenberg at Feldbach on the Lake of Zurich, carrying on his numerous activities with untiring energy in the interests of his country.

Colonel Messner was a good friend of the Institute of Metals, of which he was elected a member in 1924. He opened his works to members on the occasion of the Institute's visit to Switzerland in 1931, and entertained them splendidly. He frequently attended meetings of the Institute in London. He will be greatly missed by a wide circle of English and American friends. His son, Mr. O. H. Messner, was elected to student membership in 1936.

An Appreciative Recollection. It is about 40 years since I first met Emil Messner, under the following circumstances. Mr. Douglas Vickers, who was a Director of Vickers, Sons and Maxim, with whom I was employed, was also Chairman of the newly formed Medway Iron and Steel Company, Rochester. He told me that he had engaged a young Swiss chemist and metallurgist as Manager. He was already in this country, but as the works would not be completed for some months, Mr. Vickers asked me to take him on my staff at Barrow with the double object of enabling him usefully to fill in the interval and of becoming acquainted with British methods and practice. Messner thereupon joined us and I must confess that I was most agreeably surprised at the knowledge, ability, and adaptability he displayed. He proved to be one of the most complete and best-trained foundry experts it had ever been my good fortune to meet. So profound Was his knowledge and so well had he been grounded in the technique of the profession as applied in the laboratory, drawing office, pattern shop, and foundry, that he could have taken charge of the design, pattern- making, moulding, and casting, in addition to selecting suitable raw materials for whatever purpose the castings might be required. He was well acquainted with modern blast furnace practice as well as with the Siemens open-hearth, Tropenas, cupola, and crucible processes. He also possessed a first-class knowledge of the properties of the various alloys, both ferrous and non- ferrous, and of kindred scientific subjects, including chemistry, electricity, metallurgy, and general engineering, a combination which so eminently equipped him for the success which he attained. Messner was also one of the most sincere and charming men I have ever met. He had a delightful and refreshing personality, rarely met with, such as his contemporaries would envy, and the industrial world will be poorer for his early demise. Members will remember the part he played in arranging and devising the visit of the Institute to Switzerland in the autumn of 1931, and how largely his energetic and untiring efforts contributed to the great success achieved; whilst those of us who knew him intimately regard his loss as a personal one and are glad of the privilege of having enjoyed his friendship and of admiring those qualities that endeared him to all with whom he came into contact. H. B. WEEKS.



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