Guillet, Léon Alexandre

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Guillet, Léon Alexandre

(b. Saint Nazaire, France, 11 July 1873; d. Paris, France, 9 May 1946)


Guillet entered the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures near the top of his class and received his engineering degree in 1897. In 1902 he submitted his thesis for the doctorate in physical sciences to the Faculté des Sciences of Paris; it dealt with the alloys of aluminum. He was named suppléant professor of metallurgy at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in 1906, and in 1908 he became titular holder of that chair. In 1911 he was appointed to the chair of metallurgy at the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, and in 1923 he became that school’s director. He was elected a member of the Académié des Sciences in 1925, in the division of applications of science to industry.

Throughout his career Guillet never separated science from its applications, for he was convinced that modern industry, and especially metallurgy, must no. longer be content with the empiricism that had prevailed for so long in the factories; instead, factories should have research departments. In 1905 Guillet was named director of the laboratory of one of the largest automobile factories of de Dion and Bouton, in Puteaux, near Paris; and he transformed this laboratory into the first department of scientific research to be organized in an industrial plant.

Guillet’s scientific work was related almost entirely to the theory of alloys. The research that contributed most to his reputation was that concerning special steels, that is, those made with nickel, manganese, chromium, and tungsten. From special steels he turned to the study of bronzes and brasses. He also made original contributions to experimental measurements, principally in his research on thermal treatments of alloys.

During World War I, Guillet was assigned to the naval yards of Penhoët, where he was concerned in particular with tempering projectiles. His results were used in France and in several allied countries.

Guillet, like Henry Le Chatelier, who was to a certain degree his patron, was a trainer of men. He had around him a group of disciples, some of whom became very well-known engineers and scientists. As director of the école Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, Guillet was responsible for the notable progress of this school. Speaking of his directorship, he declared: “I spent the happiest years of my life there, and that was because those were the years during which I was best able to work for others.”

Guillet was an active member of the Académie des Sciences; he had a special gift for clearly mediating scientific discussions.


Guillet’s articles include “Contribution à l’étude des alliages d’aluminium,” thesis (Paris, 1902); “Contribution à l’étude des alliages aluminium-fer et aluminiummanaganése,” in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences, 134 (1902), 236; “Sur la micrographie des aciers au nickel,” ibid., 136 (1903), 227; “Nouvelles recherches sur la cémentation des aciers au carbone et des aciers spéciaux,” ibid., 138 (l904), 1600; “Propriétés et constitution des aciers au chrome,” ibid., 139 (1904), 426; “Constitution et propriétés des aciers au tungstène,” ibid., 519; “Propriétés et constitution des aciers au molybdéne,” ibid., 540; “Sur la trempe des bronzes,” ibid., 140 (1905), 307; “Comparaison des propriétés, essais de classification des aciers ternaires,” ibid., 141 (1906), 107; “Constitution des alliages cuivre-aluminium,” ibid.,. 464; “Sur les points de transformation et la structure des aciers nickel-chrome,” ibid., 156 (l913), 1774; “Sur les alliages de cuivre, de nickel et d’aluminium,” ibid.,158 (1914), 704; “Sur la trempe des laitons à l’etain,” ibid., 172 (1921), 1038; and “Influence de l’écrouissage sur la resistivité des métaux et des alliages,” ibid., 176 (1923), 1800.

His books include Notice sur ses travaux scientifiques (Paris, 1907, 1923); Traitements thermiques des produits métallurgiques (Paris, 1909); l’enseignement technique supérieur à l’après guerre (Paris, 1918); Précis de métallographie microscopique et de macrographie (Paris, 1918), written with A. Portevin; Additif à la notice sur ses travaux scientifiques (Paris, 1925); and Les métaux légers et leurs alliages: Aluminium, magnésium, glucinium, méux alcalins et alcalino-terreux (Paris, 1936).

Georges Chaudron

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Guillet, Léon Alexandre

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