VOL. 9 September ISSUE YEAR 2008
in Vol. 9 - September Issue - Year 2008
FEMS marks the retirement of its Past President: Professor Dr. Wilfried Kurz
Robert Singer (left) making the presentation to Wilfried Kurz
The Commemorative Plaque
The FEMS Executive Committee organised a special dinner in Lausanne earlier this year to mark the retirement from the Committee of Wilfried Kurz following seven years of outstanding service to the Federation.
Wilfried Kurz is Professor emeritus of Materials Science and Engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). Born in Leoben, Austria, he received his diploma and doctorate from the University of Leoben in 1964. He then moved to Switzerland to learn more about Europe, including the French language, and joined the staff of the Batelle Geneva Research Labor-atories, where he became head of the physical metallurgy group. ln 1971 he took up a position at EPFL where, until his retirement in 2003, he directed the Laboratory of Physical Metallurgy as well as the Laser Materials Processing Centre. On two occasions since the foundation of the Materials Science and engineering curriculum at EPFL in 1972-1973 he has been Head of Department.
His main research activity has involved experimental and theoretical work on the development of microstructure of materials and on solidification processing, including laser treatment. The co-author of four books (including “Fundamentals of Solidification) he has published some 230 papers and patents.
The ground-breaking work of this eminent scientist has received wide international recognition. He is a Corresponding Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the recipient of the “Hans Malzacher Award” from the Austrian Society for Metallurgy and Materials, the “Bruce Chalmers Award” from TMS (USA), the “Albert Sauveur Achievement Award” of ASM International, and the Chinese National Friendship Award” of the Peoples’ Republic of China. Among the medals with which he has been presented are the "Medaille Guillet Bastien" of Société Française de Métallurgie et de Matériaux, the Heyn-Denkmünze” of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Materialkunde and the "Luigi Losana Gold Medal" of Associazione Italiana di Metallurgia.
In 1999, he was awarded the "European Materials Gold Medal" by FEMS, its highest award. In the following year, he was nominated for election to the FEMS Executive Committee by the Swiss Association for Materials Science and Technology (SVMT) and was duly elected by the FEMS General Assembly, taking up his post on 1 January 2001. Within twelve months of joining the Committee, he was elected as FEMS Vice-President, a position he held throughout 2002 and 2003. During this period he was Chairman of the successful EUROMAT 2003 Conference in Lausanne, before assuming the FEMS Presidency for the two-year term 2004-2005. There then followed two years as Past President before he finally stepped down from the Executive Committee at the end of 2007.
Throughout his involvement with FEMS, Wilfried Kurz played a pivotal role in its resurgence, being an extremely effective and diplomatic manager. This was acknowledged by Robert Singer, now Past President of FEMS, during the dinner in Lausanne, when presenting him with an engraved commemorative glass plaque from his friends in the Executive Committee.
After graciously accepting this gift, Wilfried Kurz asked for permission to express two wishes. Reflecting on the preceding thirty years of his engagement in European materials research he said that while he had seen quite some progress, he had also seen how inefficient Europe can be. Europe’s potential lies in its manifold cultures and traditions but at the same time these can act as a very strong filter - a damping element, and are often the origin of harsh disagreement. Therefore, his first wish was that the countries of Europe should retain the positive aspects of their differences but without using their different points of view to block the whole system. He stressed that in order to succeed in the long term, Europeans must understand each other and cooperate, moving more quickly and more efficiently.
His second wish related to what he sees as the greatest threat for the immediate future of mankind - Horizon 2040: the climate change due to rising CO2 levels which could cause a four degree temperature increase by 2040. This has become a fact now; an average car produces 20 kg of CO2 per 200 km. There are also other sources of CO2 and this is a pretty stable substance, meaning that we will have to live with our exhaust gas for the next 1000-2000 years. Therefore, his second wish was that FEMS, which is designed for large-scale action, should do everything to help solve this number one problem facing the future of mankind, i.e. help to reduce the production of CO2. Materials play a crucial role for most solutions - especially for clean energy, such as solar energy.
Wilfried Kurz expressed confidence that FEMS can make a substantial contribution to the fulfilment of his wishes if it engages in this endeavour, having two excellent tools at its disposal: FEMS EUROMAT and the European Materials Forum (EMF). He ended by wishing everyone good luck, and by commending them to read two most enlightening articles about global warming: MRS Bull.. Oct. 2007, "Powering the Planet"; and Sci. Amer., Jan. 2008, “Solar grand Plan”.
Paul McIntyre, FEMS Secretary