Robert Durrer

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Robert Durrer
Born 1890 (1890)
Died 1978 (aged 87–88)

Robert Durrer (1890–1978) was a Swiss engineer who developed the basic oxygen steelmaking process (the Linz-Donawitz process, named after the towns where the technology was commercialized). The process was successfully tested by Durrer in 1948. A team led by Dr Theodor Eduard Suess in Austria adapted the process and scaled it to industrial size, and it was commercialized by VÖEST and ÖAMG.[1]

Durrer graduated from the Aachen University in 1915. He stayed in Germany and in 1928 accepted the chair of the Professor of Metallurgy at the Berlin Institute of Technology.[1] From 1933 to 1939, during his time in Nazi Germany, Durrer supervised experiments on the new steel making technique.[2] In 1943 Durrer returned from Nazi Germany to Switzerland and was appointed to the board of von Roll AG, the country's largest steelmaker.[1] Durrer teamed up with Heinrich Heilbrugge and ran a series of experiments that established commercial viability of basic oxygen metallurgy.[1] In 1947 Durrer ordered a small experimental converter from the United States, and on 1 April 1948 Durrer and Heilbrugge produced their first oxygen-blown steel.[1]

In the summer of 1948 von Roll AG and two Austrian state-owned companies, VÖEST and ÖAMG, agreed to commercialize the Durrer process.[3] Their commercial converter furnaces were put into operation in November 1952 (VÖEST in Linz) and May 1953 (ÖAMG, Donawitz)[4] and temporarily became the leading edge of the world's steelmaking, causing a surge in steel-related research.[5] Unlike Europe, whose industrial capacity had been decimated by World War II, America had a large base of steelmaking capacity, and it was economic to retain, rather than replace, its capital stock. U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel nonetheless introduced oxygen steelmaking in 1964;[6] by 1969, its tonnage surpassed that manufactured using the Bessemer process.[7] Japan became an early adopter and by 1970 produced 80% of its steel in Linz-Donawitz furnaces.[6] Durrer's contribution to practical steelmaking was marked by the AIME Benjamin F. Fairless Award, 1966.[8][9] etc.

Durrer was a Professor at ETH Zurich from 1943 to 1961. He edited and co-authored the multi-volume Metallurgie des Eisens (Metallurgy of Iron, or the "Gmelin-Durrer"). The annual Staudinger-Durrer Prize awarded by ETH Zurich commemorates Durrer along with Nobel Prize winner Hermann Staudinger.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e Smil, p. 97.
  2. ^ Allen, James Albert (1967). Studies in Innovation in the Steel and Chemical Industries. Manchester University Press.
  3. ^ Smil, pp. 97-98.
  4. ^ Smil, p. 98.
  5. ^ Brock and Elzinga, p. 39.
  6. ^ a b Smil, p. 99.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Blast furnace and steel plant, vol. 54, 1966, p. 91.
  9. ^ AIST Benjamin F. Fairless Award (AIME). Association for Iron and Steel Technology. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
  10. ^ Staudinger-Durrer Prize. ETH Zurich. Retrieved 2010-05-26.