Johan Richter (inventor)
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Johan Richter (Johan Christopher Fredrik Carl Richter, 12 November 1901 in Lier, Buskerud Norge, – 13 June 1997 in Oslo) was an engineer and industrialist, but above all a groundbreaking inventor in the area of pulp and paper production. A global company – Kamyr (which split in two in 1989 and now is part of Andritz AG and Metso Paper) in Karlstad Sweden – was created solely on his inventions. Kamyr become very successful and had a staggering dominance within its core activities. He is by many in the business considered The Father of the modern pulp industry.
Richter grew up in Narvik in the Northern part of Norway. His father had a management position at LKAB who shipped its ore through Narvik. From 1919 he went to school in Trondheim and was actually commuting on the famous Hurtigruten as there was no roads at that time. He graduated as a Mechanical Engineer Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 1924. After a short venue in Narvik he took on a position in the Southern France where is worked on Turbines and advanced pumping equipment. In the weekend he was climbing or skiing in the Pyrénées reminding him of the nature at home in Norway. In France he met his Norwegian wife-to-be, Astri. He married Astri Rören (1908–1992). Two children: Ole Johan (1929) Einar Christian (1932–1997). Richter returned to Norway and settled in Oslo where joined Thunes Mechanical workshop. He continued to work on Turbines but there were as well some new ideas within pulp bleaching. However due to the Great Depression he was let go in 1932.
An industrialist – Knud Dahl – at Myrens Verkstäder (Myrens Mechanical Workshop) had heard about Richter and they met. Richter convinced Dahl he had the vision and skills to develop a new technology for pulp bleaching in a continuous process. Myrens Verkstäder and Karlstads Mekaniska Verkstad (KMW) in Sweden already had a small joint venture within pulp and paper technology named Kamyr that was located in Karlstad, Sweden. Dahl hired Richer to head up the organisation with the specific task to develop and market new technologies for bleaching and other innovations within pulp and paper. Richter then moved with his family to Karlstad.
Inventor and executive
In the middle on the 1930s, Kamyr launched their new process for continuous bleaching that was developed and patented by Richter. The company had an immediate success initially in Europe and later worldwide. Kamyr grew quickly and obtained the necessary resources and creditability for innovations to come. Richter already had a vision to introduce a process for continuous cooking of pulp. So far this had been done in batches, with its drawback in quality variance and being a barrier to rational nonstop production of paper. So far nobody had even tried to conquer this area and it proved to be way more complicated than with bleaching. It took more than 10 years from the first pilot in 1940 to a fully operational unit. Richter always insisted on full scale testing. “You can fool a man, but not a machine. When the machine is willful, you have to find out why”. The first installation was able to produce 30 tons per day. A Richter digester of today will produce more than 2500 tons per day. He became the CEO of Kamyr in 1950 while still being directly responsible for Research and Development. In the following years Kamyr obtains more or less a monopoly position as no other supplier was capable of presenting something similar. Paper mills all over the world switched to continuous uninterrupted production of pulp and paper which created considerable savings and a stable quality of the end-product.
Post CEO activity
In 1959, Richter decided to step down as CEO of the company in order to re-focus on the technology. He assumed the title Chief Technical Advisor to the Kamyr Group (now based both in Sweden and the US). He stayed in that role until 1993 (being above 90 years old). One of Richter’s strengths was that he did not regard innovation as a one-off event, but rather a process of improvements. Hence he was able to reach more than 750 patents awarded worldwide. During this period Richter had relocated to France and collaborated with his son, Ole Johan, who was the one “on the location”, building and testing equipment and eventually also adding to the patented solutions. Johan Richter is relatively unknown to the general public. With his long string of innovations and the creation of a very successful company, he is probably one of Scandinavia’s most respected inventors in the 20th century.
Honours and awards
- Honorary degree at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology 1977 (Stockholm)
- Honorary member, Papirindustrins Tekniske Forening, Oslo (The Paper and Pulp association of Norway)
- Member of the Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences
- Knight of the Italian Order of Merit. (Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana)
- Knight of 1 class in St. Olavs Orden. 1966. Oslo
- Kungliga Ingenjörsvetenskapsakademien (Royal Achedemy of Technical Sciences, Stockholm) IVA. Gold Medal 1963. For groundbreaking development of technologies and methods for the continuous cooking of pulp
- Several other international medals and orders
- Inducted in the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame 2009. Paper Valley, Appleton USA
Johan's granddaughter Agneta Dahlfors-Richter is Professor of Microbiology at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, where she founded the Swedish Medical Nanoscience Center. She is independently - and within teams - behind several innovations which have received strong patents (or under application). Among others an artificial nervecell.
- Example of one of the last awarded patents (at the age of 96).
- Example: http://patents.justia.com/inventor/agneta-richter-dahlfors
- S.L . Lövold m.fl: “Johan Richter. Den moderne celluloseindustrins far (The Father of the modern pulp Industry), ISBN 82-994811-0-4, Kværner ASA, 1998
- ”Fiberlines, Kvaerner Pulping Publication” nr 1 1999, sidan 6-11
- Johan Richter: ”The History of Kamyr Continuous Cooking”, 1981
- Johan C.F.C Richter Price and the TAPPI Gold Medal
- "Ingenjörskunskaper på högsta nivå". Swedish article NWT 2007 Kamyrveteraner
- "Här stod vaggan för kokeritekniken". Swedish article NWT 2007 Kamyrveteraner
- 1977 Johan Richter awarded Doctor of Honour at The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) Stockholm. Mostly in Swedish
- Johan Richter 2009 inducted into the “Paper Industry International Hall of Fame”. The Video-presentation given at the ceremony on YouTube