Sauveur, Albert

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(b. Louvain, Belgium, 21 June 1863: d. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 26 January 1939)

metallurgy, metallography.

Sauveur was the son of Lambert and Hortense Franquin Sauveur. He was educated at the Athénée Royale, Brussels (where his father was préfet), and at the École de Mines in Liège (1881–1886). Sauveur came to the United States in 1887 and enrolled as an advanced student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated in 1889 with a thesis on copper smelting. For a year and a half he worked for the Pennsylvania Steel Company at an undemanding job as an analyst, which left him time to study the metallurgy of steel on his own.

In 1891 Sauveur married Mary Prince Jones, by whom he had three children. In the same year he went to the Illinois Steel Company in order to set up a laboratory, and he became the first in the United States effectively to study the microscopy of steel. Sauveur showed how grain-size was affected by mechanical and thermal treatment, and how, in turn, the properties of steel depend on grain-size. In an 1896 paper Sauveur critically summarized all the diverse current theories of steel-hardening mechanisms. He attributed the hardness of quenched steel to a fine dispersion of carbide (Fe3C) particles. This paper attracted international notice and led to a debate at a meeting of the American Institute of Mining Engineers that occupied a hundred printed pages (Transactions, 27 [1898], 846–944). Using quantitative methods for the first time in metallography, he related the grain-size and the volume-fraction of the principal microconstituents in steel (ferrite, cememtite, austenite and its decomposition products, martensite and pearlite)to the carbon content and to the temperature of quenching. In the same year, the laboratory of the steel works was disbanded; Sauveur returned to Massachusetts, where he established a commercial testing laboratory and began a consulting practice that continued throughout his life.

In 1898 Sauveur founded a quarterly journal, Metallographist, which he edited until its failure in 1906: in 1904 the title was changed to the Iron and Steel Magazine. Published in the most active period of metallographic discovery, the journal is a prime (if not always a primary) source for metallurgical history and contains biographies by Sauveur of all the principal workers in metallography of the time. In association with H. M. Boylston, Sauveur started a correspondence course in metallography, which was followed by 1,500 students and did much to spread knowledge of the new techniques throughout American industry. Sauveur joined the Harvard faculty as instructor in metallurgy in 1899, became professor in 1905, and remained there until his death.

With his lucid book, The Metallography and Heat Treatment of Iron and Steel (1912), and as an urbane man of the world with wide international contacts in both scientific and industrial spheres, Sauveur had a great influence on metallurgical institutions and received many honors. Nevertheless, he made few important scientific discoveries after joining Harvard, and he had few eminent research students. His main contribution after 1896 was that of a gifted advocate and interpreter of the work of others.


I. Original Works. A list of Sauveur’s 160 papers is in R. A. Daly, in Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences, 21 (1943), 26–33. Sauveur’s most important papers are “The Microstructure of Steel,” in Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers. 22 (1893), 546–557; “The Microstructure of Steel and the Current Theories of Hardening,” ibid., 26 (1896), 863–906, with German trans. by Hanno von Juptner (Leipzig, 1898); and “Current Theories of Hardening Steel, Thirty Years Later,” in Transactions of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, 73 (1926), 859–908. Sauveur was editor of Metallographist, 1–6 (1898–1904); and its successor, Iron and Steel Magazine, 7–11 (1904–1906).

Sauveur’s books include Laboratory Experiments in Metallurgy (Cambridge, Mass., 1908): The Metallography of Iron and Steel (Cambridge, Mass., 1912; 2nd ed., retitled The Metallography and Heat Treatment of Iron and Steel. Cambridge, Mass.—New York, 1916, 1918, 1920: 3rd ed., 1926; 4th ed. 1935). Sauveur also wrote two political pamphlets: Germany and the European War (Boston, 1914), and Germany’s Holy War (Cambridge, Mass., 1915): and a brief autobiography, Metallurgical Dialogue (Cleveland, Ohio, 1935), reissued as Metallurgical Reminiscences (New York, 1937).

II. Secondary Literature. On Sauveur and his work, see R. A. Daly, “Albert Sauveur,” in Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences, 22 (1943), 121–133; and Cyril S. Smith, A History of Metallography (Chicago, 1960), ch. 16.

Cyril Stanley Smith