Benedicks, Carl Axel Fredrik

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Benedicks, Carl Axel Fredrik

(b. Stockholm, Sweden, 27 May 1875; d. Stockholm, 16 July 1958)


Benedicks’ father, Edvard Otto Benedicks, and his mother, Sofia Elisabeth Tholander, came from families that had been involved in the Swedish steel industry for generations. Interested from boyhood in the theoretical study of minerals and metals, Benedicks concentrated on the natural sciences at the University of Uppsala and receioved the Ph. D. in 1904 with the dissertation Recherches physiques el phvsicochimiques sur I’acier au carbone.

In 1910 Benedicks was appointed professor of physics at the University of Stockholm. He is regarded as the father of Swedish metallography because he pleaded for the establishment of a special research laboratory for metals and metallography. Sponsored by the iron and steel industry and the government, the Swedish Institute of Metallography in Stockholm became a reality in 1920, and Benedicks served as its director for fifteen years. He continued his scientific work for twenty years more at the Laboratorium Benedicks.

Benedicks personally performed many experiments, usually employing apparatus designed and constructed by himself or in collaboration with his assistants. One of the fields in which he pioneered was metal microscopy.

In 1908 Benedicks was awarded the Iron & Steel Institute’s gold medal for his investigations that were published as “Experimental Researches on the Cooling Power of Liquids on Queendring Velocities and on Constituents Troostite and Austenite.”

In the light of modern physics, some of Benedicks’ theories and interpretations of thermoelectrical phenomena and some of his solutions to problems concerning physical properties of steel seem to be outdated and are subject to criticism. Nevertheless, during his lifetime they aroused great interest in international circles.

Benedicks donated his private library of rare books on alchemy, natural science, metallurgy, and iron and steel manufacturing, totaling about 1,500 volumes, to the Institute of Metallography, now reorganized and named the Swedish Metal Research Institute.


1. Original Works. Benedicks’ scholarly writings, often published simultaneously in various European journals, reflect a wide range of interests and considerable originality. Among them are “Thalénit, ein neues Mineral aus Österby in Dalekarlien,” in Bulletin of the Geological Institute of Uppsala, 4 (1898–1899), 1–15; “On Fragments of Cast Iron. Designated as Crystals.” in The Iron and Steel Metallurgist and Metallographist. 7 (1904), 252–257; “Sur les fers météoriques naturels et synthétiques et leur conductibilité électrique,” in Arkiv för matematik, astronomioch fysik, 12, no. 17 (1917), 1–11; “Le nouvel effet thermoéléctrique et le principe d’étranglement,” in Revue de métallyrfue, 15 (1918), 296–332; Non-metallic Inclusions in Iron and Steel (London, 1930), Writter with H. Löfquist; “Über den Mechanismen der Supraleitung,” in Annalen der Physik, 17 (1933),184–196: “Effect of Gas Ions on the Benedicks Effects in Mercury,” in Nature, 141 (1938), 1097, written with P. Sederholm; “Experiments Regarding the Influence of an Adsorbed Layer in Cohesion,” in Arkiv för matematik, astronomi och fysik, 30A no. 6 (1944), 1–34, written with P. Sederholm; and “Theory of the Lightning balls and Its Application to the Atmospheric Phenomenon Called ’Flying Saucers,’ in Arkiv för geofysik, 2 , no. 1 (1954), 1–11. A MS by Benedicks on his 483 articles and books is at the Swedish Metal Research Institute, Stockholm.

II. Secondary Literature, Biographies are in Journal of the Iron & Steel Institute, London, 160, no. 3 (1948), and The Svedberg, in Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, III (Stockholm, 1922), 163-170, which lists Benedicks’ published works up to 1920. Erik Rudberg, in Jernkontorets annaler, 142 (1958), 733-738, is an elaborate obituary.

Torsten Althin