Augustus B. Kinzel

July 26, 1900 - October 23, 1987

Scientific Discipline: Engineering Sciences
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1960)

Augustus B. Kinzel was one of the most renowned metallurgists of the 20th Century.  He began his career at General Electric Laboratories in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1919.  However, he felt he was not educationally prepared for the job and decided to return to school.  Kinzel joined Union Carbide and Carbon Research Laboratories, Inc. in 1926 as a metallurgist.  He quickly rose through the ranks at Union Carbide, where he became the chief metallurgist in 1931, the vice president of the metallurgical division in 1945, and finally, the president of the laboratory in 1948, a position he held until 1965.  Kinzel was the director of research for the Union Carbide Corporation for two years before he became the vice president of research from 1955 to 1965.  He wrote over 100 published papers on varying subjects of metallurgy and had over 40 patents issued in his name.  During World War II, Kinzel contributed to the American War Production Board serving as a senior consultant in metals from 1943 to 1944.  He also served as the chief consultant in metallurgy for the Manhattan Project from 1943 to 1946.

Kinzel found that graphite was the most stable carbon phase, even in low silicon iron, and that pearlite was a meta stable phase.  He then became known as the “father of low alloy steels” because of his research on low alloy steels, submerged arc welding, and the discovery of phase transformations in chromium-iron alloys.  Another of his major contributions was the realization that vanadium contributed to the production of high speed steel through carbide formation, and when he analyzed the mathematical relationship between vanadium and carbon content, he found that one could predict vanadium’s role in steel production.  He also found that by removing an ingot’s entire surface with melting or burning, the surface of the ingot could be freed from flaws when still exposed to high temperatures; this eliminated the past convention for ingot production, which consisted of arduous cooling, grinding, and reheating processes. 

In 1919, Kinzel received his A.B. degree in mathematics from Columbia University.  He went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn his B.S. degree in general engineering in 1921.  He then attended the University of Nancy, France to receive his D.Met.Ing in 1922 and his Sc.D. in 1933.  In 1945, he achieved the rank of Brigadier General for leading the Metals Branch of the Technical Industrial Intelligence Commission in Europe during WWII.  Kinzel then served as director, vice president, and president of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers from 1946 until 1959.  He was also the president of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers (A.I.M.E.) in 1958.  He went on to become the first president of the National Academy of Engineering in 1962, and then succeeded Jonas Salk as president of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies from 1965 to 1967.  Kinzel was the recipient of several awards, the most notable of which were the Samuel Wylie Miller Medal from the American Welding Society in 1947, the James Douglas Gold medal from A.I.M.E in 1960, and the Washington Award from The Western Society of Engineers in 1966.

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