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Walter Rosenhain

Walter Rosenhain (24 August 1875 – 17 March 1934) was an Australian metallurgist.


Early life

Rosenhain was the son of Moritz Rosenhain and was born in Berlin. The family migrated to Australia when Walter was five years old. He was educated at Wesley College, and Queen's College, University of Melbourne, where he completed his course in civil engineering and was awarded an 1851 exhibition. Going on to St John's College, Cambridge, he did three years research work with Professor (Sir) Alfred Ewing.


On the advice of his professor he took up the microscopic examination of metals, and spent some time at the Royal Mint studying the technique of his new work. This led to the discovery of "slip bands" and later, the phenomenon of spontaneous annealing in lead and other soft metals. In 1900 he became scientific adviser to Chance Brothers of Birmingham, glass manufacturers and lighthouse engineers, and for the next six years his work was chiefly concerned with the production of optical glass and lighthouse apparatus. In 1906 he became the first superintendent of the department of metallurgy and metallurgical chemistry at the National Physical Laboratory.

Rosenhain held this position for 25 years. His department was a very small one at first, but it grew very fast and eventually became one of the most important metallurgical research laboratories in the world. Rosenhain himself published a large number of papers and addresses, and his highly trained staff also did much writing, covering the whole field of physical metallurgy, ferrous and non-ferrous. In 1908 Rosenhain published his book on Glass Manufacture, a second edition of which, largely re-written, appeared in 1919. Another volume was published in 1914, An Introduction to the Study of Physical Metallurgy, 2nd edition 1916, frequently reprinted. A third edition, revised and partly rewritten by John L. Haughton, was published after Rosenhain's death, in 1935. Towards the end of 1915 he delivered the Cantor lectures on optical glass before the Royal Society of Arts. These lectures were published as a pamphlet in 1916. In the following year he wrote the essay on "The Modern Science of Metals" for Science and the Nation, Essays by Cambridge Graduates. In 1927 he was appointed British delegate on the permanent committee of the International Association for Testing Materials, and was elected its president at the Zurich congress held in 1931. Rosenhain was a good linguist and gave lectures and addresses in many countries. He resigned his position at the National Physical Laboratory in 1931 to take up practice in London as a consulting metallurgist. He died near London on 17 March 1934. In 1901, he married Louise, sister of Sir John Monash, who survived him with two daughters. He was a past president of the Institute of the Optical Society and of the Institute of Metals. He was Carnegie medallist of the Iron and Steel Institute, 1906, and Bessimer medallist, 1930. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1913.


Rosenhain was a man of strong personality, lucid in exposition and excellent as a debater. He had great qualities as a leader and did remarkable work in connexion with light alloys, on the mechanism of crystallization, the mechanical deformation of metals, and the improvement of technical practice. His many papers were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, the Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute, and other technical journals. With P. A. Tucker he published in 1908 a volume on The Alloys of Lead and Tin, and in 1911, with S. L. Archbutt, one on The Constitution of the Alloys of Aluminium and Zinc.


  • Serle, Percival (1949). "Rosenhain, Walter". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. 
  • Christopher J. Davey, 'Rosenhain, Walter (1875 - 1934)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, MUP, 1988, pp 450-451

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1949 edition of Dictionary of Australian Biography from
Project Gutenberg of Australia, which is in the public domain in Australia and the United States of America.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Walter_Rosenhain". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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