The existence of the Institute for Electric Drives and Machines is closely connected to the historical development of the field of electrical engineering at the College of Technology in Graz.
Together with the Chair of Fundamentals and Theory in Electrical Engineering, the Chair of Construction and Operation of Electrical Power Systems and the Chair of General Electrical Engineering and Electric Machines (the predecessor of the Institute for Electric Drives and Machines) represented the cornerstones of today’s Faculty of Electrical and Information Engineering.
Electrical engineering arose as a scientific discipline in the 80s of the 19th century. This lead to tremendous progress in the fields of lighting systems and electric machines, etc. The first lecture on electrical engineering at Graz College of Technology was held in the summer term of 1882.
In the year 1888, the Chair of General and Technical Physics had to be filled, and Professor Albert von Ettingshausen was obligated to hold lectures and problem classes on electrical engineering, in addition to his duties in physics. The chair was housed in the ground floor of the new college building (“Alte Technik”). The lectures on electrical engineering were part of the general education at the College, and had to be completed by students from all departments (the predecessors of today’s faculties). This situation did not change until the retirement of Professor Ettingshausen in 1920.
For the first time since 1884, the professors from the “Technische Hochschule” tried to persuade the Ministry of Education to establish a chair for electrical engineering. This was the beginning of a struggle that remained without success for decades. The last and eventually successful attempt happened in the year of 1917. Graz had in the meantime become the only College without a chair of electrical engineering in the whole of the Austrian monarchy.
30 years had gone by since the construction of the latest building (today’s “Alte Technik”), a question of space emerged and the construction of another building had become inevitable. The preparations therefore took place in the last years of World War I and the construction of the so called “Neue Technik” was started immediately after the ending of the war, where the complete southern part was dedicated to electrical engineering. The address was and still is Kopernikusgasse 24.
With the start of the academic year 1920/21, Prof. Karl Koller was appointed the first professor of electrical engineering at the Technical College in Graz. Professor Koller was the dean for electrical engineering from 1923 to 1925 and then then dean for Department of Mechanical and Rector Magnificus during 1926/27 . With his professorship in 1930, he moved into the facilities in the Neue Technik in the Kopernikusgasse. This became the location of the institute for the next 60 years, until 2010, when the institute was relocated to Inffeldgasse.
Since its establishment, the chair of electrical engineering was allocated within the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, which was characterized by its essential purpose: they served to deepen the education of mechanical engineering students in electrical engineering and the electric power industry. The general electro-technical training for students of other faculties remained in the chair of physics.
The courses offered by the chair of electrical engineering covered typically 20 to 24 hours per week, per academic year. The first lectures on the electrical industry were held on this basis in 1935.
After the elimination of the Austrian National Council in 1934 in the corporate state, a special law was adopted in higher education. In which the Technical College of Graz was merged with the College of Mining Leoben to become the “Technical College of Mining and Graz-Leoben”. In implementing this act, the Electrical Engineering at the College was upgraded within the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering into the “Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering”, where the title remained even after the withdrawal of the union of the two universities in 1937.
For the first time, electrical engineering (even if only in name) was on par with mechanical engineering. They had the intention to establish electrical engineering into a special field. There was also a requirement to organize a faculty or a subdivision of a faculty in order to cope with the teaching. This included a second professorship, which was promised by the Ministry of Education in 1930. However, due to the global economic crisis in 1931, this was withdrawn.
There was no progress with the re-appointment of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. However, the college was now represented in four faculties: in addition to the Chair of Electrical Engineering which existed at the Faculty of Montanwesen (formerly College of Postwar years Mining Leoben), a professorship of Mining and Metallurgical Electrical Engineering and the Faculty of Civil Engineering offered as part of their subject areas through lectures on electric railways and trams, as well as hydroelectric power plants, and the electro-chemistry was finally settled at the Faculty of Chemistry.
The pivotal step for the electrical engineering at the Technical College was the the integration of Austria into the German Reich. In the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, an “Electrical Engineering Department” was established in the wake of the retirement of Prof. Koller in 1938, a second and third professorship were applied, approved and occupied in the course of 1940. The former professorship of Electrical Engineering established an Institute for Electrical Engineering, which had two new chairs for electrical mechanical engineering as well as electrical systems and high voltage technology. These were housed in the 3rd Floor of the Neuen Technik.
The electrical engineering specialisation “power engineering” was immediately set up, following the unified regulations of the German Reich. Because of the new beginning, no period of transition was required. The actual launch took place in 1941 with the first semester in spring because under German education law, 6 months practical training in workshop was prerequisite for enrolment.
As a result of the war and the collapse of the German Reich, only the first stage of study (4 semesters) were offered during the summer semester 1946, the third year was offered for the first time in the academic year 1946/47, the fourths in the following year, and so on. Finally, in March 1949, the first graduates of the nine semester long degree programme were able to complete their final exams.
The re-emergence of Austria in 1945 brought the formal abrogation of all the German Reich institutions. There was again only one chair out of the three departments of electrical engineering and thus the institute and its teachings were compromised.
In addition, the personnel situation was extremely strained: Among the three professors from the war, Karl Schaefer, Anton Höpp and Johann Wierer; Schaefer died in 1944, but was not replaced; Wierer returned after the war but did not rejoin the College and Höpp was on the orders of the British military authorities to be dismissed from the service in late fall 1945.
In 1945, the study of the field of electrical engineering was continued. In the winter semester, unexpected high number of students (nearly 200) was reported to have enrolled. With no extra cost and with the staff from 1938, the faculty was able to re-establish the teachings.
According to the staffs from the 1950s, the Technical College of Graz was the only College who was specialized in “power engineering”. From 1959, it was possible to vote on the direction of the faculty from an emphasis on “construction and operation of electrical facilities” and towards an emphasis on “electrical mechanical engineering”.
The reoccupation of three professorships lasted until 1950. In 1947, Prof. Oberdorfer was appointed as the Professor of the Construction and Operation of Electrical Equipment. In 1949, Prof. Grabner was appointed the Professor of General Electrics and Electrical Engineering. In 1950, Prof. Klaudy was appointed Full Professor of Theoretical Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering. Grabner and Oberdorfer, both Austrians, had held professorships at the Technische Hochschule Berlin-Charlottenburg during the war and returned to Austria immediately at the end and after the war, respectively. According to the staffs from the 1950s, the Technical College of Graz was the only College who was specialized in “power engineering”. From 1959, it was possible to vote on the direction of the faculty from an emphasis on “construction and operation of electrical facilities” and towards an emphasis on “electrical mechanical engineering”.
In 1961. the Emeritus Prof. Grabner with two more years of supplied teaching was appointed the chair of electrical engineering, until 1963 when Prof. Gerhard Aichholzer became his successor. During the active period (1963-1986) of Prof. Aichholzer (Prof. Aichholzer was in the years of 1966/67, the Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and the Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in 1976/77), there was a huge boom in electrical engineering in Graz.
Within the decade from 1963 to 1973 it came to the new construction of five institutes, which were then still known as professorships:
♦ 1963 High Frequency Technology and Electronics.
♦ 1968 Communications and Wave Propagation.
♦ 1972 Electro- and Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Measurements.
♦ 1973 Control Systems.
As part of the general college study law in 1966 and the engineering study law in 1969, the structuring of the course in electrical engineering became the five so-called optional subject groups, namely:
♦ Construction and operation of electrical systems,
♦ Electromechanical engineering,
♦ Telecommunications and Electronics,
♦ Healthcare information,
♦ Electrical Fundamental Research.
Staffing was increased from three professors of electrical engineering with 5 academic staff in 1950 to 9 professors with a total of nearly 50 scientific staff in 1975, in order to build up the electrical engineering at the Technical College of Graz.
Following the introduction of the University Organisation Act of 1975, a series of organizational changes was associated: The Technical College was renamed University of Technology, and the faculties of mechanical and electrical engineering were split. The result was a separate “Department of Electrical Engineering.”
The new faculty had nine institutions with six groups of subject areas. Annually, nearly 1000 undergraduate students and 60 post-graduates enrolled. It was predicted that these figures would rise to over 2000 and 100 respectively.
In view of the strengthening of the field of information technology within the Department of Electrical Engineering, the Institute of Technology and Computer Science was established in 1987.
Prof. Aichholzer, who took over from Prof. Grabner, renamed the Institute for Electromechanical Engineering in 1973 to the Institute for Electromagnetic Energy Conversion. He retired in 1986 and his successor, Prof. Manfred Rentmeister was appointed in 1987. After 10 years, he gave the institute its previous name: “Electric Machines and Drives”.
Prof. Rentmeister was also appointed from 1994 to 2003 as the Dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. In 2002, under his tenure, he achieved the renaming of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering into its current form: the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology.
After the retirement of Prof. Rentmeister in 2005, the institute was initially headed by Tit. A.o. Prof. Hansjörg Köfler until he was replaced in April 2010, provisionally by Prof. Lothar Fickert (Head of the Institute of Power Systems).
In April 2010, Prof. Annette Mütze, who had previously worked in Germany, the USA and UK, was appointed as Professor of Electrical Drives and Machines and took over the leadership of the institute.
All pictures © TU Graz/EAM