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Fritz von Emperger

Austrian civil engineer

Biographical Information

Name: Fritz von Emperger
Full name: Friedrich Ignaz Edler von Emperger
Born on 11 January 1862 in , Central Bohemian Region, Czechia, Europe
Deceased on 7 February 1942 in , Austria, Europe
Student of

Begins his studies at the Technological Universities of Vienna and Prague


Consulting engineer in New York
Design and construction of some of the subway lines in New York and Boston

1893 - 1894

Eden Parc Bridge in Cincinnati
Founds Concrete Steel Engineering Co., New York


"The development and recent improvement of concrete steel high way bridges" - lecture in from of the ASCE on the advantages of reinforced concrete construction not used in the US until then


Returns to Vienna


Founds journal "Neuere Bauweisen und Bauwerke aus Beton und Eisen", renamed "Beton und Eisen" in 1905


Doctorate at the Technical University of Vienna


Honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Dresden

Notes & Comments

Short biography of Fritz von Emperger

Fritz von Emperger (or more properly Friedrich Ignaz Edler von Emperger) came from an old family of Austrian aristocrats. After attending Prague secondary modern school (1872–79), he studied civil engineering at Vienna TH and Prague TH, graduating from the latter in 1884. His main interest was bridge-building. At first he worked as an assistant to Prof. Friedrich Steiner at the chair of bridge-building at Prague TH, and was later employed by the Buschtéhrader Bridge Company in Falkenau (Bohemia) and the Prague-based bridge-building company Ruston & Co. The Monier form of construction Emperger saw at the Paris world exposition of 1889 left a deep impression on him. One year later, Emperger accepted a job offer at the Jackson Ironworks in New York, but by 1892 had already set up his own engineering consultancy on Broadway. He enthusiastically adopted the reinforced concrete system with rigid reinforcement patented by Joseph Melan in that same year in Austria-Hungary (Melan system) and in 1893 was commissioned to plan the Edenpark Bridge project in Cincinnati (Ohio), which he designed according to the Melan system. Owing to the cost of and other difficulties involved with the procurement of Portland cement from Germany, the majority of American building contractors were not inclined to build larger concrete structures. Emperger therefore founded the Melan Arch. Constr. Company in 1894, which built numerous bridges, underground railway systems and high-rise buildings in reinforced concrete and within a few years had provided enough impetus for the emergence of an American cement industry [Zesch, 1962, pp. 158/159]. It was in that same year that Emperger gave his famous presentation on reinforced concrete road bridges at the ASCE [Emperger, 1894]. He returned to Austria in 1896 and fought for the theoretical foundation of reinforced concrete construction: “All theory is dull, but practice without theory would be really dreadful” (cited in [Zesch, 1962, p. 159]). He worked as an honorary lecturer for the whole gamut of engineering sciences at Vienna TH from 1898 to 1902 and in 1903 was awarded a doctorate in engineering sciences for his dissertation on reinforced concrete beams with top and bottom reinforcement [Emperger, 1903]. However, Emperger’s greatest achievement was the founding of the journal Beton und Eisen (today: Beton- und Stahlbetonbau) in 1901, which evolved out of the reports he wrote for the Austrian Engineers & Architects Society concerning the Paris World Exposition of 1900 and represented the first independent technical/ scientific journal for the civil engineering industry [Kurrer, 2001, pp. 214/215]. He agreed with the publisher Georg Ernst (1880–1950) that Beton und Eisen would be published by Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn from 1905 onwards. It was in that same year that Emperger produced the Beton-Kalender yearbook for the first time, and two years later he began releasing the four volumes of the Handbuch für Eisenbetonbau [Kurrer, 2005/2], which by the time it reached its third edition (1921–31) had grown to 14 volumes embracing nearly 8000 pages and approx. 12 000 illustrations [Kierdorf, 2007]. The Handbuch published by Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn can therefore be called an “encyclopaedia of reinforced concrete construction” [Kurrer, 1999, p. 48]. Emperger thus progressed to become the most successful author and editor of reinforced concrete literature in the first half of the 20th century and certainly helped Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn to become the leading German publishing house with an international reputation in the field of civil and structural engineering. The creation of a scientific footing for reinforced concrete construction was therefore really focused on the publication system of the journal Beton und Eisen, the Beton-Kalender yearbook and the Handbuch für Eisenbetonbau [Kurrer, 2005/2, pp. 796–98]. This publication system is the heart of what became known in the USA at that time as the “Germanization of Reinforced Concrete” (cited in [Kierdorf, 2007, p. 732]). Together with Joseph Melan (Melan system), Emperger can be regarded as a pioneer of composite construction [Eggemann, 2003/3]. For example, as early as the first decade of the 20th century, Emperger developed his Emperger column (composite column), which he patented in 1911 and used successfully in the USA (see section Three years before his death, Emperger proposed casting in conventional reinforcement and prestressing tendons (he preferred two-core cables of high-strength steel) next to one another. The idea behind this partial prestressing was to increase the permissible steel stress and reduce the cracking compared to conventional reinforced concrete [Emperger, 1939]. Emperger’s technical/scientific life’s work enjoys considerable acclaim not only in Austria and Germany. He was, for example, an honorary member of the British Concrete Institute (today:Institution of Structural Engineers), the American Concrete Institute and the Massaryk Academy in Prague, and a corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Engineering Sciences for the final seven years of his life. He died of a heart attack on 7 February 1942 while preparing for a lecture tour. “A kindly fate,” wrote Erwin Zesch, “spared him the miseries of a longer illness that would have condemned him to inactivity” [Zesch, 1962, pp. 166, 167]. Fritz von Emperger was buried with honours in the family’s mausoleum in Vienna’s main cemetery. At the request of the Austrian Engineers & Architects Society and the Austrian Concrete Society, a commemorative plaque was mounted on the house at Liechtensteinstraße 59 where Emperger had carried out much of his work while in Vienna on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Main contributions to structural analysis:

The development and recent improvement of concrete-iron highway bridges [1894]; Neuere Bauweisen und Bauwerke aus Beton und Eisen. IV. Theil. Die Durchbiegung und Einspannung von armierten Betonbalken und Platten [1902/4]; Über die Berechnung von beiderseitig armierten Betonbalken, mit einem Anhang: einige Versuche über die Würfelfestigkeit von armiertem Beton [1903]; Die Rolle der Haftfestigkeit in den Verbundbalken [1905/2]; Die Abhängigkeit der Bruchlast vom Verbunde und die Mittel zur Erhöhung der Tragfähigkeit von Balken aus Eisenbeton [1906]; Versuche mit Säulen aus Eisenbeton und mit einbetonierten Säulen [1908]; Eine neue Verwendung des Gusseisens bei Säulen und Bogenbrücken [1912]; Neuere Bogenbrücken aus umschnürtem Gusseisen [1913]; Der Beiwert n = 15 und die zulässigen Biegespannungen [1931]; Stahlbeton mit vorgespannten Zulagen aus höherwertigem Stahl [1939] 

Source: Kurrer, Karl-Eugen The History of the Theory of Structures, Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn Verlag für Architektur und technische Wissenschaften GmbH, Berlin (Deutschland), ISBN 3-433-01838-3, 2008; p. 848

Structures and Projects

Participation in the following structures & large-scale projects:



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