Widmannstätten (or Widmanstetter), Aloys Joseph Beck Edler von
WIDMANNSTäTTEN (OR WIDMANSTETTER), ALOYS JOSEPH BECK EDLER VON
(b.Graz., Austria, 13 July; d. Vienna, Austria, 10 June 1849)
Widmannstätten succeeded his father, Johann Andreas, in the printing trade in 1764. From 1650 the family had enjoyed the exclusive privilege of printing for the province of Steiermark. In 1784, however, they were deprived of this monopoly as a consequence of the introduction of the freedom of the press. Widmannsträtten then lost interest in his concern, leased it, and sold it in 1807 to his chief competitor in Graz. He nevertheless maintained an active role in the technical arts, and was often consulted because of his experience. In 1807 Widmannstätten became a director of Emperor Francis I’s private technology collection in Vienna. He made several journeys (some on government order) to Germany, France (1815), England (1816), and Italy, For these activities Widmannstätten became a member of the Société d’Encouragement pour I’ Industrie Nationale, and in 1817 he was granted a pension.
The “Widmannstätten figures” named after him were discovered by Widmannstätten in 1808 in an iron meteorite from Zagreb. By etching polished sawing planes with diluted nitric acid, he showed a regular pattern of slightly affected intersecting bands, between narrow frames, and angular fields, which were deepened by the acid. The pattern of bands, which is repeated on a small scale by the interstices, corresponds to the traces of octahedral planes in the etched section. Chemically the frames are enriched in nickel. The rugged interstices having a higher iron content than the bands. constitute fine lamellar aggregates of nickel-poor and nickel-rich phases. widmannstätten later distinguished there patterns in meteorites from Mexico (1810), Elbogen (now Loket, Czechoslovakia; 1812), and Lénarto (1815).
In 1813 Widmannstätten decided to make direct imprints of such etched surfaces with printer’s ink and to publish them. But it was not until 1820 that Carl von Schreibers, at whose institute Widmannstätten made his investigations, published the prints.
Widmannstätten published no writings.
Biographies are J. K. Hofrichter, “Alois Beck von Widmannstätten,” in Mittheilungen des historishen Vereinsfür Steiermark, 2 (1851), 144–150; and C, Wurzbach, in Biografisches Lexicon für Oesterriech, LV (Vienna, 1887), 258–261.
Descriptions of Widmannstätten figures are in W. Haidinger, “Bemerkungen über die zuweilen im geschmeidigen Eisen enstandene krystallinische Structur, verglichen mit jener des Meteoreisens,” in Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie der Wissenschaften, mathnaturwiss. Cl., 15 (1855), 354–361; C. von Schreibers, Beyträge zur Geschichte und kenntniss meteorischer Stein- und Metall-Massen (Vienna, 1820), 70–73, with one print of Widmannstätten figures; R. Vogel, “Physikalisch-Chemisches ϋber Meteoreisen,” in C. A. Doelter, Handbuch der Mineralchemie, III , pt. 2, C. Doelter and H. Leitmeier, eds. (Dresden-Leipzig, 1926), 566–567.