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Robert Sulzer

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Robert Sulzer (1873-1953) of Sulzer Brothers

1953 Obituary [1]

In a short announcement in our last issue, we recorded with deep regret the death of Dr. Robert Sulzer, which occurred, suddenly, after a heart attack, on Friday morning, June 19th, in his office in Winterthur, Switzerland.

Dr. Sulzer, who had celebrated his eightieth birthday earlier this year, had been closely concerned throughout the whole of his distinguished engineering career with the affairs of the family firm of Sulzer Brothers, Ltd., Winterthur. Although, of course, the greater part of his time was spent in Switzerland, he paid frequent visits to this country and was consequently well known to many British engineers.

Robert Sulzer, who was born in 1873 in Winterthur, was the second son of Heinrich Sulzer-Steiner, who was for many years the head of the Sulzer firm. For the early part of his education, Robert attended secondary and industrial schools in Winterthur and Lausanne. Subsequently, he studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. There, he took a diploma in engineering in 1898, and remained at the Institute for a further year to act as assistant to Professor Stodola. This was followed by periods of practical engineering training in Great Britain and in the United States of America, and by visits to Japan and India.

Robert Sulzer entered his family's engineering business in Winterthur in 1901 and was admitted to partnership in 1906.

In 1914, the business was converted into a limited liability company and from then onwards Robert Sulzer was a valued member of the committee of managing directors of the firm. He retired from membership of that committee in 1941, but right up to the day of his death he had remained intimately associated, in an advisory capacity, with all the Sulzer activities.

As a young man, Robert Sulzer was keenly interested in design problems, especially those connected with steam engines and pumps. Nevertheless, the workshops and foundry were his chosen domain, and in them, it may be said, his most important work was done. He maintained firmly his family's tradition of high standards of quality, though he always preferred clear and simple designs. Those who were closely associated with Robert Sulzer recall his power of memory, and his familiarity with every detail of the machine tool equipment in the Sulzer works. At the same time, he was always amenable to suggestions and ready for innovations.

After the death of his elder brother, Carl Sulzer-Schmid, Robert Sulzer was for some years responsible for technical developments in most branches of his company's organisation. One example of his energetic work in the field of development is a weaving machine produced by the company.

In addition to the services rendered through the years to his company, Robert Sulzer was at all times ready to assist in other spheres of engineering activity. He belonged to many technical societies and committees and at different times presented papers to engineering institutions in Great Britain, France and Holland. In particular, we recall a paper to the Institution of Naval Architects in March, 1926, entitled "Temperature Variation and Heat Stresses in Diesel Engines." For that paper Dr. Sulzer received a gold medal and was made an honorary corresponding member of the Institution. Another important paper by Dr. Sulzer was that on" Recent Measurements on Diesel Engines and Their Effect on Design," which he presented to the Koninklijk Instituut van Ingenieurs, Rotterdam, and which was reprinted in THE ENGINEER of March 31, 1939.

Robert Sulzer's work and his great knowledge of engineering were deservedly recognised in 1941 when his honorary doctorate was conferred by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He will be remembered, however, not only on account of his outstanding technical ability. He valued the human qualities and the work of all his employees, and took a profound interest in their social welfare. During his years of responsibility at Winterthur, Dr. Sulzer was instrumental in the building of many hundreds of houses for his firm's work-people. In this and in many other ways, he won the confidence and esteem of those who worked for the firm. Robert Sulzer was an eminent engineer who will be greatly missed; but his work and example cannot fail to be an inspiration.

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