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Dimitris Tschernoff

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Professor Dimitris Tschernoff (1839-1921)

1921 Obituary [1]

Professor D. K. TSCHERNOFF, Honorary Vice-President, died on January 2, 1921, at Yalta in the Crimea. Professor Tschernoff was a pioneer in the science of the metallography of iron, and in him the representative of a whole period of Russian metallurgy and science passed away. His first publications were made in the early 'sixties, and his remarkable treatise on the critical points was presented to the Russian Technical Society in the same year - 1868 - that Mendeleeff published his investigations on the periodic law.

Dmitry K. Tschernoff was born in Petrograd on November 1, 1839. At nineteen years he graduated from the Institute of Technology, and continued his studies for a further three years in the faculty of mathematics at the Petrograd University. He was then appointed by that University as lecturer in mathematics, and in 1863 he returned to the Institute of Technology as assistant librarian, where he remained until 1866, when Oboukhoff offered him a post in his steelworks.

During these years, from 1860 to 1866 - partly spent in purely mathematical pursuits, and partly in classifying the important scientific and technical library - he gained by his studies the stupendous scientific insight which is typical of all his practical scientific works and researches. Osmond himself, twenty years later, wrote that in his opinion the whole subsequent development of physical chemistry lay in Professor Tschernoff's famous paper. The same insight is recognised in the dedication to Professor Tschernoff of the classical treatise on "Iron and Steel and other Alloys," by Henry Marion Howe.

The most important contribution made by Tschernoff to the metallurgy of steel is considered to be his treatise on critical points in steel, delivered to the Imperial Russian Technical Society in 1868, entitled "A Critical Survey of the Papers of Lavrow and Kalakoutzky on Steel and Steel Guns, and his Own (Tschernoff's) Researches thereon," Proceedings of the Imperial Russian Technical Society, 1868, pp. 399-400, and Discussion, April 20, May 2 and 11. The manufacture of steel guns had started in Russia but ten years before. The processes were comparatively new, and there was. no one of whom to ask advice. In other countries only Krupp had started manufacturing, but with the utmost secrecy. In Russia the ZlatOust plant, where the Anossow tradition was not quite extinct, was the only one in which steel foundry work was carried on, and even there only on a small scale. Under these conditions, every single operation - from the pouring of the liquid metal to the forging, and heat treatment processes - bristled with difficulties. It is easy to understand, therefore, that Lavrow and Kalakoutzky's researches on the liquation of steel and on the specific weights seemed to Tschernoff to warrant the most serious attention, and that he made these researches the object of the most far-reaching survey, intending to make the results widely known to all the prominent men connected with technical science and metallurgy.

That Professor Tschernoff's researches would serve as a starting- point for a whole new branch of physical chemistry—metallography-- no one was able to realise ; and his audience did not agree with many of the statements it contained. It was these researches that led to the determining of critical points and practical heat treatments, as, for instance, quenching in oil, the double heat treatment, the heat refinement, and many more, have all either developed out of Tschernoff's researches, or are the literal fulfilment of his precepts. In 1878 Tschernoff read before the Russian Technical Society an important paper, "On the Structure of Cast Steel Ingots," in which he dwelt on such defects in steel castings as piping, blowholes, and. segregation ; simultaneously, he drew such a picture of the crystallisation of a steel ingot that his paper became a classic.

In 1889 Tschernoff was asked by the then Director of the Michael Artillery Academy, General Demianenkoff, to join the Professorial Stall of the Academy, and to occupy the Chair of Metallurgy and Metallography of Steel. Professor Tschernoff imparted his views with such lucidity and charm that the graduates as they left the Academy did so under the spell of his ideas and impulses, many of them with a profound and deep interest and affection for metallography and science in general. Just as interestingly did Tschernoff expound his views on the use of the spectroscope in the Bessemer process ; on the erosion of steel guns ; on the surface tension ; on strains and stresses during cold work (Luders—Tschernoff lines) ; on the structure of crystals, and on the changes in that structure under the influence of heating. The latter question especially absorbed his interest, and even in 1916, from Yalta, he sent a letter to the editor of the Russian Metallurgical Society's Journal, wherein he reviewed again the whole theory of his point b and the relative question of the change in structure from crystalline to amorphous under the influence of heat.

Up to his last days Professes Tschernoff continued to sacrifice all his energies to science. He read papers on steel, he lectured in the technical institution, and he also worked on some of the mathematical problems arising on the tri-section of the right-angle. This work he accomplished in exceedingly difficult surroundings, "without books, without necessary food, and even without warm clothing," hungry and starving, yet combining always with his work his dreams and his hopes for Russia, to whom he devoted all his life and all his genius.

Professor Tschernoff was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1890, and was appointed by the Council an Honorary Vice-President in 1915.

[These notes have kindly been furnished by Colonel N. T. Belaiew, C.B.]

1921 Obituary [2]

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