Hall of Fame Class of 2013


 Tadeusz Sendzimir

Tadeusz Sendzimir’s life encompassed much of the political upheaval of the 20th Century. Born in Poland, Sendzimir fled his native Lvov when it was overrun by Russian troops during World War I. He was living in Kiev when the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917 and wound up in Vladivostok and Shanghai during much of the 1920s. Sendzimir left his native Poland for the United States in the mid-1930s, just a few years before Germany crushed the Polish Army in 1939 in the opening salvoes of World War II.

Along the way, Sendzimir amassed 120 patents related to mining, metallurgy and steelmaking. He founded a company in the United States that offered a process critical to 90 percent of the world’s stainless steel production, and his patents on galvanizing and the rolling of steel were used all over the world.

Sendzimir’s innovations included the introduction of the continuous process for galvanizing steel and the rolling of stainless steel. The rolling of stainless steel was eventually implemented on the first 20-high cluster mill that was used for lightweight machinery, such as radar, designed for mounting on World War II aircraft—without the Z-mill, there may not have been airborne radar—and later, the skin of the Apollo spacecraft was manufactured on one of Sendzimir’s mills.

When Sendzimir died in 1989, he was one of the grand old men of the global steel industry. Once an outcast in Communist Poland for his decision to emigrate to the United States, Sendzimir was posthumously honored by Poland’s leaders when they changed the name of the Lenin Steel Works in Krakow to the Tadeusz Sendzimir Steel Works.

For his work in advancing the science of metallurgy and steelmaking, Sendzimir is recognized as a 2013 inductee into AMM’s Steel Hall of Fame.

Born in 1894 into a Polish family that could trace its lineage back to the Middle Ages, Sendzimir grew up in Lvov, a center of Polish learning and culture. Always interested in things mechanical, he built his first camera at age 13 and was studying at the city’s Technical University in 1914 when World War I broke out. Following the Russian capture of Lvov, he moved to Kiev and was living in Ukraine when Russia collapsed into revolution. Sendzimir fled east to Vladivostok and then to Shanghai, where he helped set up the first plant to produce wire and nails in coastal China.

It was at the wire and nail factory that he conceived of the process for hot-dip galvanizing, which he patented and licensed at facilities around the world. The Sendzimir process for the continuous galvanizing of strip is still the basis for most galvanizing lines in the world today.

Sendzimir returned to Poland in the 1930s and helped Polish industrialists establish several galvanizing and cold strip mills. He began working closely with American steelmakers in the mid-1930s, and in 1938 formed a partnership with Armco Steel Co. Sendzimir moved to Armco’s headquarters in Middletown, Ohio, in 1939, just months before Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

During World War II, Sendzimir worked with Armco’s engineers to patent a rolling mill that could reduce very hard materials down to very light gauges. The process allowed Armco to roll silicon steel down to two-thousandths of an inch for the production of small transformers that would be used in airborne radar.

Following the war, he established T. Sendzimir Inc. in Waterbury, Conn., and used the company to market his patents around the world. Sendzimir, who became an American citizen in 1946, was awarded patents in the late 1940s for the planetary mill for hot rolling, his patents in the 1960s included the spiral looper for strip accumulators, and in the 1970s he was awarded patents for the rocker mill and the zero-crown housing.

Because Sendzimir had emigrated to the United States, he was a “non-person” in Communist Poland during the Cold War era from the 1950s to the 1970s. Sendzimir was always a major supporter of Polish causes in his adopted country, giving of his time and fortune to the Kosciuszko Foundation, the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America and Pennsylvania’s Alliance College.

In 1974, King Gustav of Sweden awarded Sendzimir the Brinell Gold Medal; two years later, Connecticut Gov. Ella T. Grasso presented him with the 20th Century Pilgrim’s Award; and in 1986, New York Mayor Ed Koch presented Sendzimir with the Liberty Medal. In 1990, the Association of Iron and Steel Technology established the AIST Tadeusz Sendzimir Memorial Medal in his honor.

Sendzimir died in September 1989 at his winter home in Jupiter, Fla., at the age of 95. T. Sendzimir Inc., the company he founded, remained in operation under the leadership of his son, Michael, who chaired the company from 1975 to 2007. Following Michael Sendzimir’s retirement, his son, Thaddeus, was named company president, continuing the legacy of Sendzimir innovation into a third generation. Since the company’s founding, T. Sendzimir Inc. has overseen the construction of 265 cluster mills, 55 Z-high mills and 16 planetary mills in 43 countries. 

Keith Busse

Cecilia Danieli