Hall of Fame
Our Hall of Fame
Johannes Pötzl was born in Vienna in 1930. He studied Mathematics and Physics at the University of Vienna and completed his dissertation using number theory to study star polyhedra under the supervision of Edmund Hlawka. He was also awarded a diploma in Technical Physics. In pursuing his interests, he also studied in the disciplines of telecommunications and high frequency technology with Prof. König, who offered him a post as Research Assistant at his institute in 1956.
Pötzl was quick to recognise the importance of semiconductor components and turned his focus to an in-depth study of the physical foundations and applications of these new components. As his calling to a professorship in Karlsruhe was imminent by 1966, his sponsor, König, succeeded in obtaining a new professorship for Physical Electronics, to which Hans Pötzl was personally dedicated. Pötzl was responsible for introducing the field of semiconductor electronics to the Faculty for Electrical Engineering, where his new professorship enabled him to develop an extremely fruitful activity for which he and many of his students achieved international recognition and renown.
Despite his wealth of knowledge, Pötzl was incredibly modest. His approach to everyone was always friendly and helpful, regardless of their position or seniority. His lectures were every bit as exemplary in structure and presentation as his efforts to achieve understanding and clarity in his academic work.
The last five years of his life were overshadowed by cancer. Nevertheless, he continued to work tirelessly - ultimately ravaged by disease, but always supported by his family - until 1993 when he lost his battle with cancer at the age of 63. Lecture Theatre EI 8 is named in memory of him.
Heinz Zemanek was an Austrian computer pioneer. He studied at TU Wien and graduated in 1944 with his degree dissertation entitled “Über die Erzeugung von kurzen Impulsen aus einer Sinusschwingung” [On the generation of short impulses from a sine wave]. From 1947 to 1961, he worked at TU Wien. During this time he completed his doctorate (1950) and ultimately received his habilitation, thus qualifying as a lecturer in 1958. His best-known achievement is the construction of Europe’s first fully transistorised computer, nicknamed the “Mailüfterl”.
“I’m an engineer at heart - and that means something is only true to the extent that it works.”
Heinz Zemanek did not see himself primarily as a theorist, but as a practical man: under his leadership, the “Mailüfterl” was built at TU Wien between May 1956 and May 1958. It was one of the world’s first computers that worked exclusively with transistors, rather than with tubes. The nickname “Mailüfterl” was coined by Zemanek as a nod to the American vacuum-tube computers that bore names such as “Typhoon” or “Whirlwind”. Zemanek thought that Viennese computers would not achieve their speed, but “the Mailüfterl would”.
“Heinz Zemanek was a great motivator,” said Prof. Richard Eier, who wrote his thesis in the 1950s under the supervision of Heinz Zemanek. “Not only was he an outstanding scientist, but he was also a key sponsor of generations of students in whom he instilled his passion for computer technology.”
Computer firm IBM bought the computer built at TU Wien from the Republic of Austria and adopted key elements of the technology for the development of the highly successful 360 mainframe computers, whose production began in 1964. They provided Zemanek with his own laboratory in Vienna, where he continued to focus primarily on programming languages. The “Vienna Definition Language” (VDL) and the “Vienna Development Method” achieved international recognition in the 1970s.
In 1976, Zemanek was appointed to the position of IBM fellow by the company, which by now had become a computer giant, thus giving him the opportunity to have free reign over his choice of responsibilities. Zemanek was appointed as Associate Professor at TU Wien in 1964 and became a full professor in 1983. Zemanek retired in the mid-eighties - but only formally. He maintained his enthusiasm for research and teaching well into old age. Zemanek bequeaths a body of academic work of some 500 articles and seven books, including publications such as “Weltmacht Computer“ (1991) and “Vom Mailüfterl zum Internet” (2001).
Honours and accolades
Zemanek was the founding president of the Austrian Computer Society, which has also awarded the “Heinz Zemanek Prize” since 1985. He was also President of the International Federation for Information Processing (1971-1974), Member of the Academy of Sciences, Corresponding Member of the Royal Spanish Academy of Sciences, Honorary Member of the Viennese Society for the History of Technology, Corresponding Member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Full Member of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities.
Zemanek has been distinguished with a number of awards, including the Kardinal Innitzer Award - the Republic of Austria’s highest accolade - the Leonardo da Vinci Medal from the European Society for the Education of Engineers, TU Wien’s Prechtl Medal, the Kompfner Medal, awarded by the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, the Gold Medal for Services to the City of Vienna, the IEEE Computer Pioneer Medal, the Oscar von Miller Plaque in bronze by the Deutsches Museum in Munich, and the JOHN VON NEUMANN Medal, awarded by the Hungarian John von Neumann Society for Computer Science.
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After graduating from the Classics grammar school in Wiener Neustadt and Wien IX in 1927, Herbert W. König began studying Physics and Mathematics at the University of Vienna. Between 1930 and 1932, under the supervision of Hans Thirring, he wrote his thesis, “Über die Elektronenemission von Oxydkathoden” [On Electron Emissions Of Oxide Cathodes] and was awarded his PhD in 1932.
In 1933, he moved to the central laboratory at Siemens & Halske AG in Berlin, where he was initially hired as an “Engineering Assistant”. After three months, he was appointed as a Development Engineer in the application laboratory for tubes, which he managed from 1937.
In 1943, König submitted his research “Über das Verhalten von Elektronenströmungen im elektrischen Längsfeld” [On the behaviour of electron flows in the electrical longitudinal field] for his postdoctoral thesis to TU Wien and was appointed as a private lecturer for “High Frequency Technology” in 1944. This important work was the starting point for his comprehensive runtime theory of electron tubes and forms the basis for the development of amplifiers and generators in the microwave range. König thus became a pioneer of microwave electronics.
In 1949, König was appointed as Professor for High Frequency Technology in the faculty for High Frequency Technology at TU Wien, where he worked for 30 years until he retired. In the field of microwave technology, he investigated the noise and energy ratios in microwave tubes. In 1962, he turned to focus on the communication application of monochromatic light sources (lasers) and his developments included an optical radar device for distance measurement, which was used for the safe distancing of rail vehicles. Austria’s first laser was built at his institute. Under König's leadership, valuable contributions were made to laser modulation, optical communications transmission and plasma- and semiconductor technology. He retired in 1978.
König was able to always combine basic research with technical execution and implementation. On account of his outstanding scientific achievements, he became a full member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 1968 and, in the same year, received the Viennese Business Technology Award. He held the Grand Decoration of Honour in Silver for Services to the Republic of Austria and, in 1976, the Academy of Sciences presented him with the Erwin Schrödinger Award.
The impact of König's huge, responsible and liberal personality is reflected in his teaching, which has given rise to ten university professors and a number of leading personalities. König spent his retirement at his home in Rossatz in the Wachau. He died in 1985, aged 76.
Sources: Pötzl, Johannes: Laudatio für emer.O.Univ.Prof.Dr.phil. Herber W. König. In: Aus dem akademischen Leben der Technischen Universität Wien (2). Hg. Engelbert Bancher, Universitätsdirektion. Wien. 1980 (Schriftenreihe der Technischen Universität Wien, Band 15), S. 19-22
Photo: © Archive of TU Wien
After attending the Bundesrealschule Radetzkystraße, Karl Waldbrunner studied Electrical Engineering at TU Wien, where he soon became politically active in the Austrian Federation of Socialist Students (VSStÖ). From 1930 to 1937 he went on to work in the Urals as an engineer in power plant construction. Following his return from the Soviet Union, he initially worked as a production engineer for Siemens, and subsequently for Schoeller-Bleckmann. As a result, he was not conscripted into the “Wehrmacht” (German Army). After the war was over, Waldbrunner decided to go into politics.
In 1945, he was appointed as Under Secretary to Renner's provisional state government and was tasked with getting East Austrian industry back up and running. He was a firm advocate of nationalisation and in 1946 spent a brief period in Moscow as an envoy and minister plenipotentiary.
Waldbrunner's career in domestic politics began in 1945 when he was elected as deputy to the National Assembly, where he remained a member until 1971. He was also General Secretary from 1946 to 1956 and Deputy Party Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Austria from 1965 until 1974 and from 1950 to 1973 President of the Federation of Socialist Academics (BSA). As Federal Minister for Transport and Nationalised Businesses (1949 to 1956) and as Federal Minister for Transport and the Electricity Industry (1956 to 1962), he was initially responsible for reconstruction. He then made the case for the expansion of the energy supply and transport network and thus importantly promoted the development of Austria as an industrial location. In his role as minister, he was also a founder member of the ECMT - the European Conference of Ministers of Transport.
From 1962 to 1970, Waldbrunner was the vice president of the National Assembly, and president from 1970 to 1971. His final professional post took him to the National Bank, where he was vice president from 1972 to 1980.
He has received many awards for his services to the Republic of Austria, including the Republic of Austria’s Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with sash, the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Knight’s Cross of the Italian Order of Merit.
Photo: © Austrian National Library image archive
After passing his matriculation examination, the Reifeprüfung, at his local high school, Alexander Meißner studied engineering at TU Wien, where he passed the second state examination in 1906. In 1909, he was awarded his PhD for his thesis entitled “Über die Flachspule als Sendespule” [On the flat coil as transmitter coil] under the supervision of Max Reithoffer.
In 1907, he had already joined Telefunken Gesellschaft, the German radio and television apparatus company, where he acquired fundamental knowledge in the field of antenna technology. In 1913, in Telefunken's research laboratory, Meißner developed a feedback circuit (the “Meißner circuit”), arguably the most outstanding of his numerous findings. This concerned a feedback amplifier with a frequency-determined resonant circuit. Until then, when generating undamped electromagnetic waves, energy was lost in the form of heat. With the aid of the feedback coil (= induction coil) the lost energy is fed back to the amplifier at the right time in the same phase with the input current.
The feedback circuit was a fundamental invention for radio technology. It was only because of this that the introduction of radio broadcasting was possible. However, it also gave fresh impetus to experimental physics in the development of high-precision measurement methods applied by Walter Nernst, for instance, to determine dipole moments and dielectric constants.
Meißner’s numerous accolades include being awarded an honorary doctorate in engineering by the Technical University of Munich, his appointment as honorary professor at the Technical University of Berlin-Charlottenburg and an honorary doctorate from TU Wien.
Josef Eckert von Labin was born in Innsbruck in 1881. He studied engineering at TU Wien and, in 1908, joined the Austro-Hungarian Navy as an engineer, where he was tasked with the construction of fast motorboats in the central naval port of Pola. After the First World War, Eckert became the technical head of the Linz shipyard, where he built the first propeller vessels for the Danube.
In 1927, Eckert was appointed as a professor at TU Wien. He was responsible for the Faculty of Shipbuilding, which, between 1935 and 1963, was located on the top floor of the Electrical Engineering Institute. Here, Professor Eckert not only taught students of engineering, but he also lectured to students of Electrical Engineering on “Engineering for Electrical Engineers”. In his work as a design engineer, he specialised in river vessels and speedboats.
Eckert spent the final few days of the Second World War in 1945 with other colleagues in the Electrical Engineering Institute. This small group’s presence ensured that any damage arising was kept to a minimum. In 1951 and 1952, Eckert was Rector of TU Wien. He died in 1959, aged 78. Lecture Theatre EI 6 is named in memory of him.
Ernst Felix Petritsch was born in Trieste day in 1878. He studied Physics at TU Wien. In 1911, he started work at the Austrian National Telegraph Board. After the collapse of the monarchy, he left Austria and, in 1918, became Head of the Testing Department for Cables and Amplifiers at the Dutch Telegraph Board.
In 1928, Petritsch was appointed as a Professor of Telecommunications at TU Wien. The Electrical Engineering Institute had become much too small for the booming field of communications technology. Petritsch thus made a successful case for an extension and in 1929, building finally began with the construction of the Low-Voltage Institute in the east wing of the Electrical Engineering Institute. It was here, in the years that followed, that Petritsch managed to establish a model research and training facility for telecommunications. Petritsch was not just an engineer, he also had strong interests in literature and philosophy. He considered connecting distant cities in countries through telecommunications to be an important step towards world peace.
In 1938, Petritsch, who the Nazis considered to be a proponent of the corporate state, was forced to retire. He was only able to return to work after the Second World War. Petritsch died in 1951, aged 73. Petritschgasse in the 21st district of Vienna and Lecture Theatre EI 1 are named after him.
Karl Pichelmayer studied at the School of Mechanical Engineering at the Technical University of Graz. He then became an assistant there to Albert von Ettinghausen, to whom he owed his first apprenticeship in Electrical Engineering. He began his professional activity at AEG in Hamburg, and from 1891 worked in the machine plant of Siemens & Halske in Vienna. In 1904, he moved to Siemens & Halske in Berlin to become a senior engineer and then in 1906, he returned to TU Wien as a full professor of the Theory and Construction of Electrical Engineering Machines.
One of the things that Pichelmayer worked on was the theory of reversal of current in collector machines and alternating current measurement. He is considered to be the originator of best practice at Vienna’s School of Electrical Engineering. He made a major contribution in the field of electrical engineering by reforming the study of electrical engineering in Vienna, thus also establishing a pioneering training structure for other technical universities.
Pichelmayer had a number of responsibilities, including vice president of the Electrical Engineering Society and Board of the Patent Court; he received many awards, including the Gold Medal for the machines he constructed for Siemens & Halske for the world exhibition in Paris in 1900, and in 1911 he received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Graz.
Figure: Archive of the TU Wien
Max Reithoffer was born in Vienna in 1864. After graduating in Mathematics and Physics at the University of Vienna, he became an assistant in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. In 1898, he received his habilitation and in the years that followed was involved in the development of the Electrical Engineering Institute at Gußhausstraße 25.
In 1908, Reithoffer was appointed as a full professor and in 1925 he became head of the Electrical Engineering Institute. Reithoffer was a popular tutor who considered practical experiments to be very valuable and was also keen to recount his personal experiences in his lectures for the benefit of his students. He told one story about when he was sent for by Vienna's power plants and picked up in a Viennese Fiaker sent by the Technical University, to assist with the difficult connection of a large generator.
Reithoffer, who had already delivered lectures on electric oscillations in 1903, is considered to be the pioneer of early radio technology, to which he devoted his passion in his later working years. He established the first radio laboratory in the Electrical Engineering Institute and was significantly involved in the introduction of radio broadcasting in Austria. Meissner, the inventor of the tube feedback circuit, was a student of Reithoffer.
Reithoffer retired in 1933 and he died in 1945, aged 80. Lecture Theatre EI 4 is named in memory of him.
Carl Hochenegg was born in Vienna in 1860. After studying Engineering, focusing on Electrical Engineering at TU Wien, Hochenegg joined Siemens & Halske where he worked in the electrical railway department. The Budapest underground railway, parts of Vienna’s tram network and the Trieste-Opčina mountain railway, which was the first example of how to reclaim energy on the downhill journey, were just three of his numerous projects.
In 1899, he was appointed as professor in the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at TU Wien. In those days, the faculty's location was far from ideal in a private house at Paniglgasse 12. Hochenegg devoted his energy to making a case for a separate new building to house the Electrical Engineering Institute. The new Electrical Engineering Institute building at Gußhausstraße 25 was officially opened for business in 1903 and was where Hochenegg continued to develop exemplary tuition in electrical engineering in the years that followed. In 1906/07, Hochenegg was Rector of TU Wien, where he was later appointed as an honorary citizen and also awarded an honorary doctorate.
Whilst the Vienna City Administration only wanted to extend the tram network around 1910, Hochenegg pleaded strongly for the development of an electric rapid transit/subway network for Vienna and prepared a number of reports and projects on the matter. Hochenegg died in 1942, aged 81. Hochenegggasse in the 19th district of Vienna and Lecture Theatre EI 5 are named after him.
Johann Sahulka studied Physics and Mathematics at the University of Vienna. In 1881, he obtained his degree qualifying him to teach in grammar schools, and completed his doctorate in 1882. He went on to teach at the Währing Secondary School and at the Theresianum. In 1899, he moved to become an assistant to Puluj at the German Technical University in Prague, where he obtained his habilitation in 1891. From 1891 to 1894, Sahulka worked as a designer at the Electrical Engineering Institute at TU Wien and transferred his authorisation to teach, known as the venia, to that institution. In 1893, he attended the Electrical Engineering Congress in Chicago as a delegate and official reporter for the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and in 1900 attended the World Exhibition in Paris as a jury member for electrical engineering. From 1894-98 he was a member of the Imperial Standard Calibration Committee and in 1899, he was a technical adviser in the patent office. In 1903, he was appointed as a full Professor of Electrical Engineering at TU Wien. He was head of the School of Mechanical Engineering from 1909-11 and University Rector in 1913/14. At the start of the First World War, he instigated the construction of a hospital for the war effort at TU Wien.
Arguably his most significant scientific achievement came in 1894 with his discovery of the rectifying effect of the mercury vapour arc, as well as many other pioneering activities in the field of electrical machines. He registered many patents. Sahulka was awarded a whole host of accolades: in 1915, he was awarded the title of Privy Councillor. He also bore many decorations, including the Order of the Iron Crown and the French Légion d’honneur.
Quellen: „Sahulka Johann“ in: ÖBL 1815-1950, Bd. 9 (Lfg. 44, 1987), S. 379 [Onlinefassung];
Abbildung © Archiv Universität Wien.
After completing his school education, Adalbert Carl von Waltenhofen studied Mathematics and Physics at the University of Vienna and at the k.k. Polytechnisches Institut in Vienna. In 1848, he achieved his PhD at the University of Graz, where he became a Physics Assistant. In 1850, he obtained his grammar school teaching degree and until the end of 1852, taught at the Akademisches Gymnasium in Graz. From 1853 to 1867 he was a full professor of Physics at the University of Innsbruck, where he redesigned the physics room in a laboratory for scientific work.
In 1867, Waltenhofen was appointed as Professor for General and Technical Physics at the Polytechnisches Institut in Prague, where he served as Rector in 1878 and 1882. At this time, he developed the Waltenhof pendulum, a forerunner of the eddy current break. From 1881, he was also lecturing on electrical engineering. From 1883 to 1899, he was the first professor of Electrical Engineering at TU Wien, where he set up the first small electrical engineering laboratory and was later entrusted with the groundwork for establishing the Electrical Engineering Institute.
Waltenhof sought to introduce the absolute measuring system in Austria and completed pioneering scientific work in the fields of electricity, magnetism and electrical engineering as well as for the design of electrical engineering education. On the basis of his new findings in the field of Physics, he became a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences in 1871, and from 1875, became Vice President of the Czech Society of Science, receiving an honorary doctorate in 1904 from TU Wien.
Quellen: Angetter, Daniela; Martischnig, Martin: Biographien österreichischer [Physiker]innen. Eine Auswahl. Hg. vom Österreichischen Staatsarchiv. Wien 2005, S. 150ff.
Wurzbach; Universitätsarchiv der TU Wien
Bild © Bildarchiv der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek
Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology Medal of Honour
In 2009, the faculty's rector’s office introduced medals of honour for special achievements in science and teaching. Rudolf Kompfner, who invented the travelling wave tube for microwaves, lent his name to the Electrical Engineering and Information Technology medal.
The Rudolf Kompfner Medal has so far been awarded to four people.
In 2010, the recipient was Heinz Zemanek “for his ground-breaking work in the development of information technologies, and particularly for his contributions to the formal definition of the PL/I programming language, which became the basis of many modern formal computer languages”.
Erich Gornik was awarded the medal in 2012 “for his work in the field of III-V heterostructures and the brilliant recombination of carriers, as well as for his contributions to establishing the Center for Micro and Nanostructures at TU Wien”.
In 2014, the medal was presented to Gottfried Magerl “for his pioneering work on optical spectroscopy, his development work on microwave technology for his creative contributions to telecommunications achievements in the development and management of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology”.
Alexander Weinmann received the latest medal in 2017 “for his outstanding contributions to establishing, developing and managing the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology at TU Wien”.