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Peter Von Tunner

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Peter Von Tunner (1809-1897)

1897 Obituary [1]

PETER VON TUNNER died at Leoben, in Styria, on June 8, 1897. Born on May 10, 1809, at Turrach, in Styria, he was from his youth up occupied with mining and smelting. He obtained his scientific training at the Vienna Polytechnic. On the completion of his studies he worked for two years in the steelworks of Prince Schwarzenberg, where, after some practical experience in other works, he received a permanent appointment. He had thus early acquired not only a good theoretical education, but also a varied practical training, and was consequently eminently suitable for the post of Professor of Metallurgy in the new Joanneum at Graz. The Archduke John selected Tunner for this appointment, and travelled in 1833 to Katsch in order to arrange terms with him personally. The great interest the Archduke took in his protégé is shown in a letter dated September 14, 1833, which is to the following effect "After careful investigation I recommend for the appointment Peter Tunner. A native of the district, of best moral character, one of the best students of the Polytechnic. Institute, thoroughly furnished with the requisite scientific knowledge, experienced in the local treatment of iron, of good presence, he fulfils all the requirements of the post."

Two years later Tunner received the appointment as Professor. He was only twenty-six years of age when he was nominated. In March 1837 he began an educational journey through the mining and metallurgical districts of Austria, Hungary, Germany, Sweden, England, France, Belgium, and Italy.

On November 4, 1840, the new mining school at Vordernberg was inaugurated, and here Tunner instructed the students in practical metallurgical work. In 1849 the institution was moved to Leoben, and on October 14, 1861, it was converted into a mining academy. How completely Tunner's whole existence was wrapped up in this institution that he founded, whose fame extended far beyond the frontiers of the Austrian monarchy, is well shown by a remark he once made. "When," he said, "my last hour comes, I do not know whether I shall think more of my family or of my academy." The work begun in 1840 by Tunner as lecturer on the metallurgy of iron, and continued with astonishing energy for a lifetime, was the foundation of scientific metallurgy. His last course of lectures on the metallurgy of iron was delivered in 1865-66. On July 20, 1874, he retired from active work.

As Professor, he gave full attention to all inventions and improvements in connection with iron and steel. He was one of the first to appreciate the importance of the Bessemer process, and its introduction into Austria was due to his energy. As an author he was continually active. His numerous memoirs were published chiefly in the Leoben Mining and Metallurgical Yearbook, and in the Transactions of the Vienna Geological Survey. He also wrote treatises on the calibration of rolls, on the future of the Austrian iron trade, on the mining industry of Russia, and a report on the London International Exhibition. One of his last monographs was an excellent account of the iron industry of Styria and Carinthia, prepared on the occasion of the visit of the Iron and Steel Institute to Austria-Hungary in 1884. Since 1845 he visited all the great exhibitions, and even at the age of sixty-nine faced the fatigues of a journey to America to take part in the Centennial Exhibition.

In 1867 he was elected a member of the Styrian Parliament, and in the same year was elected to the Imperial Parliament. Honours were showered upon him. In 1864 he was knighted by the Emperor, and he had conferred on him at different times the crosses of numerous orders of chivalry, including the Austrian Franz-Josef Order, the Austrian Iron Crown, the Prussian Crown, the Russian Stanislaus Order, the Swedish Order of Vasa, the Friedrich Order of Wurtemberg, the Albrecht Order of Saxony, .d the Michael Order of Bavaria. He also received the honorary freedom of the towns of Leoben, Vordernberg, Eisenerz, Hiittenberg, Bleiberg, and Raibl, and was an honorary member of the Society of German Iron Metallurgists, of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Stockholm, and of the Academy of Sciences of New York.

He was elected an honorary member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1875, and in 1878 received the Bessemer Gold Medal. He communicated three papers to the Institute: one in 1873 on the value of superheated blast in the working of blast-furnaces; and two in 1882 on the iron industry of Styria and Carinthia, and on the use of lignite or brown coal in the blast-furnace.

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