S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Gernet, Mr Adolf von (metallurgy)

Born: 14 April 1863, Reval (now Tallinn), Estonia.
Died: 4 January 1942, Dingolfing, Bayern, Germany.

Adolf (sometimes Adolph) von Gernet, a Russian metellurgist, studied at Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia) from 1881 to 1886. Subsequently he became a German citizen and was in charge of the private laboratory of Werner von Siemens in Berlin. Among others he published a short paper, "Ueber Phenylangelikasaure", in the Bulletin Scientifique publie par l'Academie Imperiale des Sciences de Saint Petersburg in 1888. In 1892 he became a representative of Siemens in the United States and two years later followed his brother Rudolf to South Africa. In 1901 he patented an improved process for extracting copper from its ores by dissolving the copper minerals in weak sulphuric acid and precipitating the metal electrically. This process later became known as the Siemens-Halske electric precipitation process.

Von Gernet became a foundation member of the Chemical and Metallurgical Society of South Africa (Johannesburg) in 1894 and served on its council from 1894 to 1897. In 1896 he was manager of the Rand Central Ore Reduction Company and in that capacity asked the government of the South African Republic (Transvaal) for a plot near Barberton on which a factory for the treatment of ore concentrates could be erected.

During the first half of 1897 von Gernet left for England, but was back in the Transvaal in 1898. In March that year he contacted the government to deny a rumour that he was to be appointed as consul of Russia for the Republic, but was nonetheless appointed as the first Russian vice-consul that same year. He was elected vice-president of the Chemical and Metallurgical Society of South Africa for 1898/9. During these years he contributed to the development of a method for recovering gold from slimes (a suspension of finely crushed ore), as did J. Hennen Jennings*, John R. Williams*, and Charles Butters*. He read several papers before the society. The first, "Electrical precipitation of gold", was delivered in August 1894 and published in the Proceedings for 1894-1897 (Vol. 1, pp. 28-34). "The electrical refining of copper" followed in October 1895 (Proceedings, Vol. 1, pp. 183-186). In July the next year he spoke on the reporting of monthly mine outputs (Vol. 1, pp. 238-240). His final paper, "Losses of gold in mill water" was read in January 1899.

In 1901 von Gernet travelled in Peru and Bolivia. By 1905 he was a member of the (British) Institution of Mining and Metallurgy. Though still a member of the (renamed) Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa at this time, he was a metallurgist at the Institute Meurice in Brussels, Belgium. In 1898 he married Leonilla, born Princess Mestscherski, with whom he had a daughter. Later he was a farm estate owner at Warth, near Dingolfing, and became known as Adolf von Gernet von Warth.

List of sources:
Carter, T.L. [Metallurgy]. In H.T.M. Bell & C.A. Lane, A guide to the Transvaal (pp. 196-217). Johannesburg: South African Association for the Advancement of Science, 1905.

Chemical and Metallurgical Society of South Africa. Proceedings, 1894-1899, Vol. 1-2.

Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa. Journal, 1904/5, Vol. 5, Members.

Google Patents. https://patents.google.com Search for Adolf von Gernet.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Von Gernet, Adolf.

National Archives Repository (TAB), Source MHG, Vol. 0, Ref. 11068/67: Death notice and estate papers, Adolf von Gernet von Warth.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers [1800-1900]. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

Von Gernet, Adolph. In: Wikipedia, die freie Enzyklopedie. https://de.wikipedia.org Retrieved 2017-1-11.

Compiled by: C. Plug