Obituary: Professor Hans List

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The Independent Online
Professor Dr Dr h.c.mult. Hans List, founder of the Austrian automotive engineering company AVL, was 100 when he died on Tuesday, and came into work until the day before he died. The lifelong energy and ability of this remarkable engineer is underlined by his elaborate title. The appellation "Dr Dr h.c.mult." shortens the Latin honoris causa multitudo - roughly "many honorary doctorates" - the first for his original Doctorate of Technical Science at Graz, the second for four other university honours.

These awards exclude a string of national and international honours reflecting a wide-ranging academic career which occupied most of the first half of his working life. Then, when 50 years old, List started a private engineering consultancy which four years later in 1952 became the company "Anstalt fur Verbrennungskraftmaschinen, Prof Hans List": List Internal Combustion Engine Institute - AVL GmbH, as it is known internationally.

Born in 1896 in Graz, Hans List was the son of a railway design engineer. Study at the Technical University of his home town was interrupted by the First World War, resuming on the return of the young officer when he gained his Engineering Diploma in 1920. A job as designer in a railway company did not stop him working in his spare time - without telling anyone - for his PhD on the control of diesel engines; the first his parents knew of the young List's achievement when he was called to the rostrum to receive his doctorate at the award ceremony.

In 1926, he took up the post of professor and head of the Department of Thermodynamics at the state university of Tongji, Woosung, in China. In spite of modest equipment and the distractions of the Sino-Japanese War, List was responsible for extensive basic research work, especially on the scavenging (clean exhausting) of two-stroke engines.

Nineteen thirty-two saw him back in Graz, succeeding Professor Magg as head of Thermodynamics and Internal Combustion Engines. Here, whilst continuing engine research, he began his internationally renowned reference book The Internal Combustion Engine (1935). As well as editing the work of contributors, four volumes of this valued tome were written by List himself.

In 1941 List moved to Dresden University as successor to the diesel-engine researcher Dr Naegel. The end of the Second World War brought an invitation to take a professorship at Aachen Technical University, but List chose to return to Graz to concentrate on writing and publishing further editions of his book. So it was that at 50, when lesser people may be considering steadying and consolidating, List branched out into his second life, as the leading consultant in diesel-engine combustion.

The company which sprang from List's first office grew steadily, today employing 1,300 engineers in Graz, and more in offices abroad. He was particularly interested in two-stroke diesels, although none became truly commercially successful. List's - and AVL's - really successful work was in the development of the direct injection diesel, particularly in overcoming the tremendous challenge of making small - car- size - direct injection diesel engines.

Where Sir Harry Ricardo in Britain developed indirect injection - still the most popular form of car-size diesel - List and AVL ended up doing a comparable job for the more fuel- efficient small direct injection diesel, which is now steadily supplanting indirect injection in cars.

The line-up of companies who AVL have helped design and develop their direct injection (d.i.) diesels includes Ford (with one of the first d.i. diesels for the Transit van), Land Rover, and Rover with their superb L-series d.i. diesel; while other leaders in the field such as the Audi- Volkswagen Group use what are effectively clones of AVL combustion chambers.

Hans List, automotive engineer: born Graz, Austria 30 April 1896; twice married; died Graz 10 September 1996.