Count Alois von Beckh Widmanstätten (13 July 1753 – 10 June 1849) was an Austrian printer and scientist. His name is sometimes given as Alois von Beckh-Widmannstätten or Aloys Beck, Edler von Widmannstätten.
During his youth, he was trained in the printing art by his father. His family owned exclusive printing rights in the Steiermark province, but this was lost in 1784 and Alois sold the business in 1807. In 1804, he ran a spinning mill in Pottendorf, Austria.
Starting in 1807, he was placed in charge of the Fabriksproduktenkabinett, a private collection of technology owned by the Emperor. In 1808, he was the director of the Imperial Porcelain works in Vienna.
Widmanstätten patterns discovery
In 1808, he independently discovered some amazing patterns, now called Widmanstätten patterns in iron meteorites, by flame-heating a slab of Hraschina meteorite. The different iron alloys of meteorites oxidized at different rates during heating, causing color and luster differences.
He did not publish his discovery, but claimed it only through oral communication. Nevertheless, he received full credit for it, and Carl von Schreibers, director of the Vienna Mineral and Zoology Cabinet, named the structure after Widmanstätten.
However, the Widmanstätten pattern had been observed previously (in 1804) by the English mineralogist William (Guglielmo) Thomson. During the period that he spent in Naples, he discovered these figures by bathing a Krasnojarsk meteorite in nitric acid for the purpose of removing rust. In 1804, he published his discovery in French in the Bibliothèque Britannique, so the full credit of the discovery should be assigned to Thomson due to his chronological priority.
Named after him
- Widmanstätten patterns of iron meteorites
- The crater Widmannstätten on the Moon
- 21564 Widmanstätten asteroid