Martens, Adolf

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(b. Backendorf bei Hagenow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, 6 March 1850; d. Berlin, Germany, 24 July 1914)

Materials testing, metallography.

Martens was the son of Friedrich Martens, a tenant farmer. After attending the Realschule in Schwerin and gaining two years of practical experience, he studied mechanical engineering from 1868 to 1871 at the Königliche Gewerbeakademie in Berlin (later the Technische Hochschule of Berlin-Charlottenburg). At the end of his training in 1871, he entered the service of the Prussian State Railway, where he participated in the planning of the great bridges over the Vistula near Thorn and over the Memel near Tilsit. From 1875 to 1879 he was a member of the Commission for the Berlin-Nordhausen-Wetzlar Railway. In this position he had to supervise the preliminary work done by the companies supplying the iron superstructure of the bridges. He thus became involved, early in his career, with the techniques just then being developed for testing construction materials.

Martens, in this early period, was stimulated by a short book by Eduard Schott, Die Kunstgiesserei in Eisen (Brunswick, 1873), to begin metallographic studies for which he built his own microscope. His first publication, “Über die mikroskopische Untersuchung des Eisens” (1878), contained his observations on freshly fractured iron surfaces, as well as drawings of etched and polished surfaces. On this topic Martens wrote:

A careful observer of all these results cannot but come to the conclusion that in pig iron the various combinations of iron are only mechanically mixed; during the process of cooling or crystallization they arrange themselves with most surprising regularity. So the microscopical investigation of iron has a very great chance of becoming one of the most useful methods of practical analysis.

Further works followed and brought Martens into close contact with contemporary metallographers, sometimes provoking lively debates.

In 1884, after a short time as an assistant at the newly founded Königliche Technische Hochschule of Berlin-Charlottenburg, he was appointed director of the associated Mechanisch-Technische Versuchsanstalt, which in 1903 became the Königliche Material-prufungsamt of Berlin-Dahlem. The brilliant design and organization of this institute were essentially his work.

Metallography did not at first come within the range of the Mechanisch-Technische Versuchsanstalt, and Martens could continue his very successful metallographic studies only in his free time. He could not resume them on a larger scale until 1898, when the Mechanisch-Technische Versuchsanstalt established a metallographic laboratory. His co-worker Emil Heyn greatly developed the field and made the institute a first-rate metallographic laboratory.

Martens’ works from this later period were concerned with all aspects of the testing of materials, and especially the development of new measuring methods and equipment. His Handbuch der Materialienkunde (1899) is a comprehensive work which earned him the high regard of his colleagues as well as many honors.

Martens was chosen vice-chairman of the International Society for Testing Materials (ISTM) at its founding in 1895; in 1897 he became chairman of the German Society.

Martens combined tireless research activity and unusual talents as a designer and organizer. He made a fundamental contribution to the knowledge of the properties of materials by presenting the results of his research in clear and exhaustive reports.


I. Original Works. Martens’ works on metallography include “Über die mikroskopische Undersuchung des Eisens,” in Zeitschrift des Vereins deutscher Ingenieure, 22 (1878), 11–18; “Zur Mikrostruktur des Spiegeleisens,” ibid., 480–488; “ü das mikroskopische Gefüge und die Rekristallisation des Roheisens, speziell des grauen Eisens,” ibid., 24 (1880), 398–406; “Mikroskop für die Untersuchung der Metalle,” in Stahl und Eisen, 2 (1882), 423–425; “Untersuchungen über das Kleingefüge des schmiedbaren Eisens, besonders des Stahles,” ibid., 7 (1887), 235–242; “Die Mikroskopie der Metalle auf dem Ingenieurkongress zu Chicago 1893,” ibid., 14 (1894), 797–809; “Ferrit und Perlit,” ibid., (1895), 537–539, a discussion between Martens and A. Sauveur; and “F. Osmonds Methode für die mikrographische Analyse des gekohlten Eisens,” ibid., 15 (1895), 954–957.

For articles on materials testing, see “Die Festigkeitseigenschaften des Magnesiums,” in Mitteilungen aus den K. technischen Versuchsanstalten zu Berlin, 5 (1887), supp. 1; “Ergebnisse der Prüfung von Apparaten zur Untersuchung der Festigkeitseigenschaften von Papier,” ibid., supp. 3, pt. 2; “Intersuchungen über Festigkeitseigenschaften und Leitungsfähigkeit an deutschem und schwedischm Drahtmateriale,” ibid., supp. 2; “Festig-keitsuntersuchungen mit Zinkblechen der schlesischen AG für Bergbau und Zinkhüttendbetrieb zu Lipine, Oberschlesien,” ibid., 7 (1889), supp. 4; “Untersuchungen mit Eisenbahnmaterialien,” ibid., 8 (1890), supp. 2; and “Untersuchungen über den Einfluss der Wäme auf die Festigkeitseigenschaften des Eisens,” ibid., 159–214.

With H. Sollner, Martens wrote “Verhandlungen der in Wien im Jahre 1893 abgehaltenen Conferenz zur Vereinbarung einheitlicher Prüfungsmethoden für Bau- und Konstruktionsmaterialien,” in Mitteilungen aus dem Mechanisch-technischen Laboratorium der K. technischen Hochschule in München, no. 23 (1895). Also see “Entspricht das zur Zeit übliche Prüfungsverfahren bei der übernahme von Stahlschienen seinem zweck?” in Stahl und Eisen, 20 (1900), 302–812; Das Königliche Materialprüfungsamt der technischen Hochschule Berlin auf dem Gelände der Domäne Dahlem beim Bahnhof Gross-Lichterfelde-West (Berlin, 1904), written with M. Guth.

His later works include “Prüfung der Druckfestigkeit von Portlandzement,” in Verhandlungen des Vereins zur Beförderung des Gewerbefleisses, 88 (1909), 179–186; “über die Grundsätze für die Organsiation das öffentlilchen Materialprüfungswesens,” in Dinglers polytechnisches journal, 93 (1912), 557–559; and “über die in den Jahren 1892 bis 1912 im Königl. Material prüfungsamt ausgeführten Dauerbiegeversuche mit Flusseisen,” in Mitteilungen aus dem K. Materialprüfungsamt Gross-Lichterfelde, 32 (1914), 51–85.

Martens’ handbooks are Handbuch der Materialienkunde für den Maschinenbau, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1898–1912); and Das Materialprüfungswesen unter besonderer Berücksichtigungder am Kgl. Materialprüfungsamt zu Berlin-Lichterfelde übelichen Verfahren im Grundriss dargestellt (Stuttgart, 1912), written with F. W. Hinrichsen.

II. Secondary Literature. Articles on Martens are “Adolf Martens,” in Metallographist, 3 (1900), 178–181; “Adof Martens †,” in Zeitschrift des Vereins deutscher Ingenieure, 58 (1914), 1369–1370; and E. Heyn, “Adolf Martens†,” in Stahl und Eisen, 34 (1914), 1393–1395.

Franz Wever

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Martens, Adolf

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