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The Polish scientist, Jan Czochralski, may not be a household name in his home country, but his discovery has shaped modern electronics. Today, April 23, there is the 70th anniversary of his death. On this occasion, learn more about this fantastic scientist.
Czochralski was born on October 23, 1885, in Kcynia, a small town in Prussian partition, not far from Bydgoszcz, into a respected family of carpenters. He moved to Berlin in 1904, where he worked for Allgemeine Elektrizitaets Gesellschaft and earned a degree in chemical engineering from the Berlin University of Technology in 1910.
Czochralski’s greatest discovery came in 1916 when he developed a method of measuring the speed of metal crystallization. As legend has it, he accidentally dipped his pen into a pot of molten tin, which resulted in a metal rod. This method of growing monocrystals is now widely used in the production of semiconductors, which are used to build transistors used in electronics. Thanks to Czochralski’s method, monocrystals are now used in mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, MP3 players, portable game consoles, and other electronic devices.
In 1924, Czochralski invented a metal alloy known as B-metal, which was ideal for the manufacture of bearings for railway carriages. The alloy did not contain expensive tin, and the German railways immediately bought the patent. B-metal allowed trains to travel at higher speeds and played a significant role in the development of rail transport in Germany, Poland, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
Czochralski’s achievements earned him international recognition. In 1925, he became the president of the German Association of Metallurgists. He was also invited by Henry Ford to visit his factories and offered the position of director at his new aluminum factory, but Czochralski declined. In 1928, he returned to Poland and became a professor at the Warsaw University of Technology. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university and became a full professor in the following year.
Jan Czochralski passed away exactly 70 years ago, on April 22, 1953. His legacy, however, lives on in the electronics industry, which has been revolutionized by his discovery of the Czochralski method.