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Ernst Berl Papers

Identifier: 2013-037

Scope and Content

The Ernst Berl Papers contain the personal papers of Austrian chemical engineer Ernst Berl. The collection is arranged into the following seven series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Subject Files
  3. Patent Files
  4. Financial Records
  5. Personal Files
  6. Papers and Speeches
  7. Printed Materials


  • Creation: 1899-1970


Language of Materials

Collection materials are mainly in English and German. A small amount of materials in French, Spanish, Portugese, Dutch, Hungarian, and Polish are also included in this collection.

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Copyright Information

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Ernst Berl Papers. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

Ernst Berl was an Austrian chemical engineer, chemistry professor, and inventor. An Austrian Jew, Berl was born on July 7, 1877 in Freudenthal, Upper Silesia (at the time part of Austria-Hungary, now part of the Czech Republic). He attended the Technical University of Vienna, graduating with a degree in Chemical Engineering in 1898. He furthered his education at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, earning his doctorate in Chemical Engineering in 1901. After obtaining his doctorate, Berl remained at the University of Zurich for a number of years, serving as a lecturer of Chemical Technology. In 1910, he was appointed Chief Chemist of the Tubize Artificial Silk Factory in Belgium, where he was active in the development of synthetic fabrics. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Berl returned to his home country and became Chief Chemist of the Austro-Hungarian War Ministry. In this capacity, he helped with the development of explosives and chemical weapons for the Austro-Hungarian military.

Berl moved to Germany in 1919 when was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the Technical University of Darmstadt. He enjoyed a distinguished career at this institution, conducting research on a wide range of topics, including, but not limited to, synthetic fabrics, chemistry of fuels, sulfuric acid, and methods of chemical analysis. When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Berl and other Jewish faculty members were dismissed from their university posts. That same year, he moved to the United States when he was appointed Research Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

At Carnegie Tech, Berl continued to enjoy a distinguished and productive scientific career. He conducted research on wide range of topics, including, but not limited to cellulose chemistry, chemistry of fuels, and methods of chemical distillation. In addition his faculty duties at Carnegie Tech, Berl served as a consulting chemist with the Tennessee Valley Authority and the United States Navy Ordnance Department. During World War II, he contributed to the American war effort by conducting research on explosives and chemical warfare. Berl became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1938. He retired from Carnegie Tech in 1946.

In addition to being a prominent chemical engineer, Berl was a prolific inventor who was awarded a number of patents over the course of his career. In 1931, he was awarded a United States patent for the “Berl Saddle,” a ceramic distillation tower packing which is still widely used in the chemical industry today. In 1940, he invented a method of synthesizing coal and oil from plant material at a relatively low cost.

Ernst Berl passed away on February 16, 1946.


Ernst Berl Papers, Chemical Heritage Foundation Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


15.4 Linear Feet (11 Boxes (11 Record Boxes))


Correspondence, professional files, patent files, financial records, personal files, papers and speeches, and publications of Austrian chemical engineer Ernst Berl.

Acquisition Information

The Ernst Berl Papers were originally donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013, then subsequently transferred and formally donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by Herbert Berl in September 2013.

Related Materials

There is one other known Ernst Berl collection preserved at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Processing Information

The Ernst Berl Papers were processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in June 2015.

Ernst Berl Papers
Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig
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Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
215.873.5265 (Fax)