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In memory of Nils Hartler

Kung Carl XVI Gustav delar ut 1993 års Wallenbergpris till professorerna Ants Teder och Nils Hartler
Kung Carl XVI Gustav delar ut 1993 års Wallenbergpris till professorerna Ants Teder och Nils Hartler. Till höger doktor Peter Wallenberg. Foto: Wallenbergstiftelsen
Published Sep 04, 2020

Nils Hartler, professor emeritus in cellulose technology at KTH, has died at the age of 94. He was a well-liked colleague and a pioneering researcher in pulp production.

Nils Hartler was born in 1926 in a vicarage in Skåne, his father was both a pastor and an author. After graduating in Landskrona, Nils studied civil engineering at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, where he also took a licentiate degree. Then it was off to Skoghalls Bruk in Värmland and it was at this time that his great interest in the forest industry took root. After a few years at Skoghalls Bruk - where he also met his wife - Nils Hartler became chief engineer at the Cellulose Industry's Central Laboratory (CCL) in Stockholm. In parallel with this, he also became a doctoral student at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and defended his dissertation "Some studies on the quality of wood chips for pulp production" in 1963.

In 1971, Nils became professor of cellulose technology at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and two years later he received a second professorship, the Walker-Ames professorship at the University of Washington in Seattle, USA. He was also active at the company Defibrator in Stockholm, now part of Valmet, and was a member of the engineering academy IVA. Nils was faithful to KTH until his retirement in 1992 and a very active professor emeritus after that.

Throughout his active time as a researcher, Nils Hartler was an important part of, and contributer to, the forest industry's joint research at “Träforskningen” (STFI), which has been such an important factor in the Swedish forest industry's success. Under the leadership of the so-called Senior Paper Club, he continued this important job of networking between KTH and the forest industry's pensioners.

Nils had broad knowledge of the forest industry, and his interests spanned the wood raw material, wood handling and both chemical and mechanical pulp production. His greatest success was undoubtedly the development of a modified sulphate cooking process together with, among others, Ants Teder and Bertil Carnö. A breakthrough that has gained enormous industrial significance around the world. The work was awarded the Wallenberg Prize - "the Forest Industry's Nobel Prize" - in 1993 (shared with Professor Ants Teder). Nils was also awarded the Ekman Medal in 1998 and the international organization TAPPI's gold medal in 2008.

Through his American professorship, Nils had a vast network in the USA and became an esteemed "match maker" between the Swedish and American forest industry. As a result, knowledge of new Swedish technology was spread to the American forest industry. He also had a unique ability to identify great talents in research and industrial production and via KTH he could give them a docent or an adjunct professorship. Some famous people that Nils Hartler took care of in this way are Hans Norrström, Ingemar Croon and Rolf Brännland. Even as a teacher and popularizer, he was prominent. Among other things, Nils participated in the National Encyclopedia and took an active part in the public debate. He was also the main supervisor and examiner for a large number of doctoral students enrolled at KTH, several of whom became university teachers themselves.

Nils Hartler was a gentleman of the old school, almost of the British type, educated and cultured, always neat and elegant, but above all very polite and overwhelmingly friendly to everyone, regardless of social status. Privately, Rotary was one of his major interests, but he also appreciated sports (tennis and golf), bridge and good food.

The global forest industry, as well as today's engineers, technology students and teachers, have Nils Hartler and his peers to thank too much. For those who want to honor his memory, a contribution to the Swedish Alzheimer's Foundation  is recommended.

Mikael E Lindström, Ulf Germgård, Monica Ek, Peter Axegård, Olle Alsholm and Gunnar Henriksson

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Last changed: Sep 04, 2020