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Floris Osmond

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Floris Osmond (c1849-1912)


1912 Obituary [1]

FLORIS OSMOND died on June 18, 1912, at his residence at Saint-Leu, in the Department of Seine-et-Oise, France, at the age of sixty-three years. By his death the Institute has to deplore the loss of one of its most distinguished members; a scientist whose brilliant attainments and valuable contributions to metallurgy had won for him wide and ungrudging recognition. Although it was to the late Dr. Sorby that the introduction of metallographic methods for the examination of the structure of metals was, in the first place, due, it is to Mr. Osmond that the widespread application of these methods of investigation belongs.

He was born in Paris in 1849 and, during his graduate course at the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, he was a pupil of Professor Jordan, from whom he derived his subsequent devotion to metallurgical studies. On leaving the Ecole Centrals, he entered the machine shops of the Fives Lille Company, and subsequently he was employed by the Compagnie Denain et Amin at a period when the works were undergoing reconstruction and enlargement, by the addition of plant for the manufacture of steel, both by the Bessemer and the open-hearth processes. Mr. Osmond was thus enabled to acquire an intimate acquaintance with the details of the manufacture of iron and steel, and, on leaving these works, he went in 1880 to Le Creusot, where he became a member of the metallurgical staff.

Early in 1886, Professor H. Le Chatelier had perfected the thermoelectric pyrometer associated with his name, and had thus contributed a most valuable instrument of research. In that year, Mr. Osmond, availing himself of the accurate means for measuring temperature thus furnished, embarked on an investigation of the deviations which had been observed in the temperature curves of iron and steel on heating and cooling. That these evolutions and absorptions of heat were the manifestations of a molecular change had been foreshadowed as far back as 1868 by Tscbernoff, while in the following year the phenomena were described before the Royal Society by G. Gore, and later by Barrett, who was the first to explain their cause, and by Tate, Moissan, Brinell, and other observers. It was, however, reserved for Mr. Osmond to throw further light on the nature of the phenomena, and the accurate study of what have since been known as the critical points of iron and steel may be said to date from the time that he published his first paper on "The Phenomena which occur during the Heating and Cooling of Cast Steel." This was followed up by a paper published in 1887 on "The Transformations of Iron and Carbon."

In 1890 he became a member of the Iron and Steel Institute, and at the May meeting in London that year he contributed his first paper to the Proceedings, entitled "On the Critical Points of Iron and Steel." It was, however, in connection with the application of the microscope to the examination of the structure of iron and steel and to the perfection of methods of preparing, polishing, and etching the sections, that Mr. Osmond's minute and painstaking investigations were chiefly directed. To Dr. Sorby must be given the credit for first employing the microscope for this purpose, while Professor Martens was the first to develop microscopical examination along the lines suggested.

To Mr. Osmond, however, belong the credit of having further elaborated the methods of investigation and of having deduced from his observations a theory capable of adequately explaining the changes of structure observed during heat treatment. He was the founder of the allotropic theory of the transformations of iron, and, in view of the controversies to which that theory has from time to time given rise, it is of interest to note that, in a letter written as recently as April 18 in the present year, he states that his opinions in regard to this theory remained unaltered.

In the course of his researches on the microstructure of steel, he discovered several new constituents: Martensite, of the existence of which he was firmly convinced, and Austenite; he also recognised and named the two transition products, Sorbite and Troostite. Mr. Osmond's work received widespread recognition, and he was the recipient of many honours. He was awarded monetary prizes by the Societe d'Encouragement pour l'Industrie Nationale in 1888 and in 1895. In 1897 he was awarded the Lavoisier Medal, and in 1898 he was elected an Honorary Member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers.

In 1906 he received the Bessemer Gold Medal of the Iron and Steel Institute, although unfortunately his health was then failing, and he was not able to attend in person on the occasion, the medal being handed, on his behalf, to the Count de Lastours, representing the French Ambassador, by whom it was transmitted to its recipient. At the Summer Meeting of the Institute in that year, he contributed, in collaboration with Mr. G. Cartaud, the third and last paper which he wrote for the Proceedings of the Iron and Steel Institute, on the "Crystallography of Iron," and he continued until quite recently to take part, from time to time, in the correspondence on papers dealing with the iron carbon theory, and to evince his continued interest in the work of the Institute.

He was interred privately on Monday, June 24, at the Cemetery of Taverny, Seine-et-Oise.


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