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TUNNER, Peter Ritter von

* 10. 5. 1809, Deutschfeistritz, Austria
† 8. 6. 1897, Leoben, Austria

Mountain scientist

T. came from a family which dealt with mining industry in Styria through different generations. His grandfather Joseph owned a farrier workshop, nail maker's workshop, iron foundry, metallurgical plant, blast furnace and iron mines in Salla in Eastern Styria. After the economic and technical problems in Salla led to his bankruptcy, his father Peter T. (1786-1844) from 1823 on worked as deputy in Prince Schwarzenberg’s iron mine in Turrach. T. was born in Deutschfeistritz north of Graz, where his uncle Heinrich lived. Upon completing primary school he moved with his parents to Turrach. When they became aware of his great talent he was sent to Frantschach (Carinthia) and began studying at the Polytechnic Institute in Vienna, which he attended between 1828 and 1830. The extensive theoretical knowledge was the basis for the later practical activities and further vocational training: a visit to Tyrol and Salzburg steel industry, becoming in charge of ironworks at Mauterndorf and the head of the newly built hammer mill in Katsch near Murau from 1832 to 1834/35. During the period when he managed the hammer mill in Katsch, he decided to transfer a planned establishment of Institute for mountain Science in Vordernberg into a real study. The driving force behind the foundation of this institution, Archduke Johann in order to find a suitable head for this school negotiated with various people in the scientific field. After visiting Katsch the then 25-year-old T. caught his attention and was on 15th May 1836 on Johann’s suggestion made a professor of mining and metallurgy. His first challenge was a long travel across the Empire and the rest of Europe lasting from October 1835 to December 1837. He travelled to Saxony, Prussia, Sweden, England, Belgium, France, Württemberg and Bavaria. Further short trips in 1838 led him to Hungary and northern Italy. This young mountain scientist was thus able to get a closer insight into the latest innovations in European mining technology, which from then on reflected in his activities of head of the Styrian Mountain Institute in Vordernberg, opened on 8th November 1840.
From 1849 to 1874 T. was the head of Imperial Royal mountain science learning institution in Leoben (since 1861 the University of Mining). By 1866 he as the major publisher published mining and metallurgical miscellany.
T.'s clear goal was to make ironwork industry in sub-Alpine countries internationally competitive. In the early years he focused on the traditional extraction of iron and steel in charcoal blast furnace and in the foundries and puddling furnaces. His most important work at that time was the Well informed master blacksmith (1846), a comprehensive and understandable guide for practical application with instructions for master blacksmiths.
T. was also one of the first proponents of the use of coke for the production of pig iron in blast furnaces. Since 1830 he also supported the consistent air pre-heating. Since the late 1850s T. belonged to the earliest messengers of the new improved process for steelmaking. In his commitment to engagement of the successful development in England and Sweden he in 1861 took over the Bessemer process of converter steel manufacturing. His intervention fell on fertile ground, when the Schwarzenberg prince in 1861 decided to build a steelworks in Turrach, which used Bessemer process with two converters for the production of steel.
As a consultant T. was able to use experience he acquired on his trip to England to the World’s fair in London and was in 1863 in Turrach personally present at the start of the first metallurgical plant in Austria, which operated on the Bessemer process. A year later in Heft (Carinthia) T. presented the decisive information to build a second metallurgical plant, where steel was manufactured by Bessemer process. He subsequently, with the same vigour advocated the introduction of Thomas and Siemens-Martin's processes.
In addition to several decades of teaching at "his" school and the practical impact he had on the development of mining and metallurgical science in sub-Alpine countries, an international mountain science remained his interest. Because of his many trips abroad, including all the world fairs he visited since 1851, he was considered one of the best connoisseurs of the European steel industry and its techniques in the second half of the 19th century. In 1870 he received an invitation from the Russian Czar to visit the ironworks in Ural and southern Russia. Six years later, after the World's Fair in Philadelphia, he got the opportunity to see the American continent as well.
In 1838 he married Mary Zahlbruckner († 1882), who gave birth to three children. After the death of his favourite daughter Paula in 1892 and when suffered from stroke, the final years of his life were marked by severe illness. T. received numerous awards and medals, including the Bessemer Gold Medal of the Iron and Steel Institute and was the first honorary member of the Association of German iron workers (1881). T.’s students were Franz Kupelwieser, Joseph Gängl von Ehrenwerth, Josef Massenez, Karl Poensgen and Ludwig Beck. He is also the author of twenty monographs and over 200 newspaper articles.

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