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John Alexander Mathews

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John Alexander Mathews (1872-1935)

1935 Obituary [1]

JOHN ALEXANDER MATHEWS, Vice-President of the Crucible Steel Co. of America, and a metallurgist of international repute, died of a heart attack at his home in Scarsdale, New York, U.S.A., on January 11, 1935.

He was born at Washington, Pa., on May 20, 1872, and attended Washington and Jefferson College. In 1898 he took his Ph.D. degree at Columbia University and was appointed assistant in assaying and tutor in chemistry there. He was given the Barnard Fellowship and went to the Royal School of Mines, London, where he studied metallography under Sir William Roberts-Austen.

Returning to Columbia in 1901, he worked on the development of alloy steels in Professor Howe's laboratory; in this he was encouraged by being awarded one of the first Carnegie Scholarships of the Iron and Steel Institute, in the year of their inception. The following year the first Carnegie Gold Medal was bestowed upon him; he thus achieved the signal distinction of being the first to receive either award and the first to be the recipient of the double honour.

He began his association with the Crucible Steel Co. in 1902, becoming metallurgist in charge of experimental work at Sanderson Brothers Steel Co., Syracuse. During this period, and subsequently, he became interested in steels for permanent magnets, and was instrumental in making the United States almost self-sufficient so far as tungsten and chromium magnet steels were concerned. He was of the firm opinion that the magnetic properties of carbon and alloy steels could ultimately be correlated with the structure and mechanical properties, and on this point was responsible for many brilliant hypotheses - hypotheses which have since been amply confirmed Dr. Mathews went to Macomb Steel Co. in 1908 as operating manager, becoming President of this company in 1915.

Five years later he was elected Vice-President of the Crucible Steel Co. of America, soon became President and only relinquished this post (in 1923) in order to become Vice-President and Director of Research, and so to devote more time to the latter. This position he held at his death. Among his outstanding achievements were the use of the electric furnace in the production of high-quality steel, the American production of magnet steels, the development of various alloy steels, particularly high-speed steels containing vanadium, and the improvement of heat-resisting austenitic steels; in many of these fields he was the pioneer.

During the war of 1914-1918 many technical committees benefited by his experience, especially in aircraft production problems. Dr. Mathews was a member of many technical societies, including the American Society for Testing Materials and the American Society for Metals; he had been a member of the Iron and Steel Institute since 1904.

A clear, lucid writer, he published about a hundred papers in all; those read before the Iron and Steel Institute include one on "A comparative study of some low-carbon steel alloys," in 1902, and one on "Retained austenite," in 1925. The reputation which he early established in Great Britain and America was further enhanced by the fact that he was chosen to deliver the Howe Memorial Lecture before the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers in 1924, while in 1928 he was awarded the Robert W. Hunt Medal of that society.

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