Professor Herward Opitz

4 June 1905 - 15 June 1978 - Germany

Affiliation to CIRP

1964 – 1965 President of CIRP

1966 – 1968 Chairman of STC C


Contributed to STC-C, STC-E and STC-G and STC-M, served to the board of STC-C as a chairman.


  • Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

  • Honorary doctorates by the University of Leuven, Strathclyde, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Berlin, Dearborn, Lüttich, Loughborough.

  • Honorary fellowship by the Manchester College of Science and Technology as first German sci-entist.

  • Gustave Transenster“ Medal of honour from the association “des Ingenieurs Dip-lomés” of the University of Liège.

  • Grashof-Medal of the VDI. Medaille de la Recherche et de l’Invention von Groupement pour l’Avancement de la Mécanique Industrielle (GAMI) Saint Ouen, France.

  • Senator of Honours of the RWTH Aachen.


Herward Opitz studied mechanical engineering in Munich and Berlin. His doctoral thesis was on “Experiments about the machinability of free cutting steels”. Professor Herward Opitz started his career in industry at the machine tool company Schiess-Defries in Düsseldorf.

In 1936 Professor Opitz was appointed as a full Professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engi-neering at RWTH-Aachen. He succeeded Professor Adolf Wallichs. Professor Opitz is to be considered as one of the visionary professors which moved production engineering science to new levels. In his vision engineering science should follow a holistic approach, taking all subjects into account which are important to successfully run a factory.

He must be consid-ered to be the father of the Werkzeugmaschinenlabor (WZL) in Aachen, as it exists today. When he retired in the year 1968 the institute hosted more than 300 full time employees, with about 160 research engineers among them. The research departments in place covered en-gineering science in machine tools, production technology, metrology and factory organiza-tion.

At the time when Professor Opitz retired the WZL had grown up to a size, that three successors where appointed to follow him and to continue Professor Opitz life’s work.