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Jean Louis Trasenster

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Jean Louis Trasenster (1816-1887)


1887 Obituary [1]

JEAN LOUIS TRASENSTER was born at Beaufays, near Liege, Belgium, on 10th February 1816.

After receiving a good general education at the Liege public school, he entered the science classes in the University, where in 1836 he and one other were the first two students in the newly established department of mining engineering.

In 1838 he gained by examination the rank of mine manager, and in 1842 was the first to win the title of government mining engineer.

In 1840, before he had yet taken all his diplomas, he was placed in charge of the class of elementary statics in the University of Liege.

In 1844 he was appointed lecturer on mining, and continued to hold that post till 1879.

In 1845 he became inspector of the junior department of the Mining School.

In 1846 he was made inspector of the practical department and professor of the faculty of sciences; and rose by successive promotions to the highest rank in 1855, having meanwhile in 1849 been also appointed secretary to the University.

In 1880 he was made Rector of the University; and in 1883 this appointment was renewed for a further period of three years. During the thirty-five years that he lectured on mining he had the training of nearly fifteen hundred mining engineers, of whom nearly three hundred score foreigners. When the "Association des Ingenieurs sortis de l'Ecole de Liege" was founded in 1847 by twenty-nine of his former pupils, he was elected their first President; and he was re-elected annually for thirty-nine successive years until 1886, when he retired in consequence of failing health, the Association then numbering nearly a thousand members. His retirement from the presidency was coincident with the jubilee of the mining engineering department of the University; and the occasion was celebrated on 24th October 1886 by a large gathering of the members of the Association, all of whom had received their professional training from himself.

At the commencement of his career he acted as consulting engineer to the John Cockerill Company, Seraing. He was also chairman of the Ougree Coal and Iron Works, near Liege, being re-elected for thirty-eight years; and was a director of the Alstaden Collieries in Prussia, the Maastricht Paper Mills, and the Herve Railways near Liege.

In 1844 was published his treatise on ventilating machines, and in 1852 that on rotary ventilators; in 1848 and 1872 appeared his works on the draining of mines, and in 1872 and 1878 those on the use of compressed air, and of water pressure.

It was at his instigation that dressed stone was first employed as tubbing for lining the shafts of coal-pits at Alstaden and Seraing; and he got various improvements carried out, both in the employment of compressed air for sinking pits through watery measures, and in the construction of man-engines. In the government educational work he took an active part, and occupied a responsible and prominent position in connection with that department from 1850.

He was one of the editing committee of the "Annales des Travaux publics," and of the "Revue universelle des Mines," to both of which publications ho contributed important articles. At the international exhibitions of 1862 in London, 1867 in Paris, and 1873 in Vienna, he was a juror; and to him was due the introduction in Liege of public baths and wash-houses.

On the occasion of the Summer Meeting of this Institution in Belgium in 1883, he was nominated an Honorary Life Member of the Institution (see Proceedings 1883, pages 310-311); and when the Association of Engineers from Liege University were in return invited to the Summer Meeting of the Institution in London in 1886, he would have accompanied them as their President, had he not been unfortunately detained at home by his wife's illness, which terminated shortly afterwards in her death; and he himself died on 1st January 1887, in the seventy-first year of his age.


1886 Obituary [2]

LOUIS TRASENSTER, who died at his residence in Liege on the 1st of January 1887, was born at Beaufoys, in Belgium, on the 10th of February 1816, and had consequently reached the 70th year of his age. After an excellent education at the Communal College of Liege, he was appointed in 1838 an inspector of mines in the province of Liege, and three years later he received the honorary diploma of engineer of mines.

On the 26th March 1842 he was appointed sub-engineer of mines under the Belgian Government, and in the same year he was promoted to be an engineer. In 1849 he ceased his connection with the Belgian Corps of Engineers. Meanwhile he had undertaken the duties of lecturer at the University of Liege, commencing with the class of Elementary Mechanics. In November 1844 he was entrusted by the Government with the chief charge of the course of Mining Engineering, and he continued to hold this appointment until 1879. As early as 1846 he was made an extraordinary Professor of the University, and in 1854 he received his full Professorship.

Many distinguished men have been connected with the University of Liege; but perhaps no man has been so pre-eminently associated with its progress, or has done so much to stamp its high character as a school of mines, as M. Trasenster. On the recent occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the school, M. Trasenster delivered an address—his very last public utterance - in which he described the condition of technical instruction, as regards the engineering of mines, previous to the establishment of the school in which he took so active, prolonged, and prominent a part. "The collieries," he said, "were, previous to 1836, very inefficiently worked under the direction of master-workmen, who were without the least instruction. The ironworks, &c., limited both in size and in number, were administered by rule of thumb, the applied sciences were scarcely at all developed, and the knowledge of their principles was very imperfect. Besides this, practical men had but little confidence in them. It was, therefore, an act of temerity to establish at that time a high school, designed to impart a scientific training to industrial engineers."

The project was, however, attended with remarkable success. During the half century of its existence, the Liege School of Mines has turned out 1487 engineers, of whom 1200 have been Belgians, and 287 foreigners. Of this large number, the majority keep alive their former interest in and association with the school by membership in a society, founded by M. Trasenster and some others in 1847, and entitled L'Association des Hives sortis de l'Ecole de Liege. In an address which he delivered only last year (1886), M. Trasenster stated that 975 of the former pupils of the school were now members of this society. Of that number 246 occupy positions in foreign countries, and about one half of the 246 are Belgian engineers. On the same occasion, M. Trasenster mentioned the notable fact that of the 24 professors attached to the University of Liege, no fewer than seventeen were former pupils at the School of Mines in that town, while other pupils hold professorial appointments at Brussels, Louvain, Mons, and Gembloux. This high measure of success has been largely due to M. Trasenster, of whom, in a recent address, M. Henri Lambert, president of the organising committee, said— "Member of the Council intrusted with the arrangement of the course of studies to be followed at the school over a long period of years, M. Traseuster has always been invested by successive Governments with a great and highly-merited degree of confidence. His valuable advice had always been followed, and the School prospered and took a high position accordingly."

Although, however, it was through his connection with the School of Mines that M. Trasenster was best known, and although it was to the work of that School that he devoted his first and most unremitting attention, he yet found other objects that claimed and received a large share of his valuable services. He was a member of the Preparatory Council, instituted on the 3rd April 1850, for the improvement of middle-class education in Belgium, and on the 16th February 1852 he was elected a member of the permanent Council, in which capacity he gave a great deal of attention to this subject. He was a juror at the International Exhibitions of 1862 at London, and of 1867 at Paris, a member of several Commissions appointed in Belgium at different times to deal with questions relative to public instruction and industries, a director of several manufacturing and industrial companies, and a member of the Commission of the Annales des Travaux Publics.

In his capacity as member of the editing committee of the Revue Universelle des Mines, as well as in that of professor, M. Trasenster undertook a good deal of literary labour, and although he could hardly be called a prolific writer, yet his contributions to the magazine in question, and to other scientific publications, bear witness to the great variety and extent of his technical knowledge, his ripe judgment, and his scholarly attainments. These secured for him the honorary membership of the French Society of Civil Engineers, and of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in our own country.

M. Trasenster's character was, however, a many-sided one, as is witnessed by an admirable summary in the Journal de Liege of the 3d January, which may be fittingly reproduced here.

"Louis Trasenster was for us more than a parent. He was a father and a friend at the same time—a sure guide, in the right sense, with a heart always young, and continually open to the noblest aspirations. An ardent patriot, he loved our young nationality and had faith in it. He believed sincerely in the future of Belgium, when confided to the firm and able hands that have so long guided its destinies. . . . He had always before his eyes the most elevated objects, as well in his youth, when, in the troublous time of the Revolution of 1848, he wrote a brochure on the Belgian Nationality'—full of just thoughts, and of predictions of which more than one have been realised—as when, in his later years, appreciating the immense importance of higher education in a free country, he devoted to that great question an activity as far-sighted as it was practical."

As President of the local committee formed in 1873 for the reception and entertainment of the Iron and Steel Institute, on visiting and holding a meeting in Liege, M. Trasenster's genial words of welcome and marked hospitality will long be remembered by those who were privileged to be present on that occasion. Probably never before had a scientific society received such a splendid reception in a foreign country. The whole population of Belgium, from royalty downwards, appeared to engage in a rivalry of attentions, and M. Trasenster's cordial and kindly example received the practical endorsement of the country at large. His address on receiving the Institute - to which the then President, Sir Lowthian Bell, suitably responded in French - was a thoughtful and scholarly, as well as a genial performance; nor ought it to be forgotten here that much of the marked success of the Liege meeting, from first to last, was due to him.

M. Trasenster was elected a member of the Institute in 1874. He seldom found opportunity to attend the meetings, and the Proceedings have never been enriched by any direct contributions from his pen.

In consideration of his scientific and public services, M. Trasenster received several foreign orders, as well as that of the Order of Leopold.


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