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 and further refined and implemented by VÖEST and ÖAMG in Austria, independently of the "big steel" establishment of the United States and the Ruhr.[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] 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.[2] Their commercial converter furnaces were put into operation in November 1952 (VÖEST in Linz) and May 1953 (ÖAMG, Donawitz)[3] and temporarily became the leading edge of the world's steelmaking, causing a surge in steel-related research.[4] The big American steelmakers did not catch up to the new technology: U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel introduced oxygen process only in 1964.[5] Japan, on the contrary, became an early adopter and by 1970 produced 80% of its steel in Linz-Donawitz furnaces.[5] Durrer's contribution to practical steelmaking was marked by the AIME Benjamin F. Fairless Award, 1966.[6][7] 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.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e Smil, p. 97.
  2. ^ Smil, pp. 97-98.
  3. ^ Smil, p. 98.
  4. ^ Brock and Elzinga, p. 39.
  5. ^ a b Smil, p. 99.
  6. ^ Blast furnace and steel plant, vol. 54, 1966, p. 91.
  7. ^ AIST Benjamin F. Fairless Award (AIME). Association for Iron and Steel Technology. Retrieved 2010-05-26.
  8. ^ Staudinger-Durrer Prize. ETH Zurich. Retrieved 2010-05-26.