By Vanda Sendzimir. New York. Hippocrene Books. 1994. 368 pages. Index. Hardcover. $24.95

Daniel Mitchell

Tadeusz Sendzimir, a colorful Polish nobleman, achieved success and experienced the agony of many failures as an inventor whose "steel will" carried him through sixty long years of risks, tests and trials. In 1930, the thirty-six-year-old Sendzimir arrived in San Francisco, California, three years before the Golden Gate bridge was constructed.

Steel Will: The Life of Tad Sendzimir, is the first biography of a unique inventor who revolutionized the process of steel making. Written by his daughter Vanda, a writer who resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it tells the story of one of the top five inventors in the history of steel. Ms. Sendzimir traces her father's life from birth in 1894 until his death in 1989, portraying him as a witty and gracious gentleman, but also as a man occasionally showing a tyrannical and mercurial side.

Tad Sendzimir typified the traditional American success story: a hard-working immigrant imbued with initiative and daring to achieve his dream in a nation labeled "the land of opportunity." Though he chose to become an American, he did maintain his identity as a Polish-American. His lifetime contacts and relationship with Poland, his birthplace, earned him many honors from that country. In 1990, Poland renamed its largest steel mill in Krakow from "Lenin" to "Sendzimir."

Sendzimir's innovations included the introduction of stainless and galvanized steel which was useful for light-weight machinery such as radar designed for mounting on World War II aircraft. Later the Apollo spacecraft was manufactured in one of his steel mills. Overall, Sendzimir helped to alter the complete technological processes in steel-making over the last six decades. He held over 120 patents, 73 of which were awarded to him in the United States. His unpublished notebooks, the author suggests, could provide insights to those interested in steel making.

Sendzimir operated a nail factory in Shanghai, China in the 1920s. In 1929, he left for America. Eventually he moved to Waterbury, Connecticut where he married Bertha Bernoda in 1945. He became a US citizen in 1946. He founded steel mills in Butler, Pennsylvania (1936), and Middletown, Ohio (1939). Poland, France, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada have purchased his steel mills and technologies over the years.

Sendzimir's successful methods of galvanizing steel eventually were implemented in the first Z-mill rolling silicon steel, making it pliable for aircraft radar. From 1953 until 1989, he introduced the first productive Z-mill to Great Britain and to Japan and Canada in the l950s and l960s. In l974 he founded Sencor, an engineering company, and invented a spiral steel looper used in the United States and Japan. Vanda Sendzimir tells the reader about the tension, conflict and sometimes disruption in the family, but basically paints a picture of a loving patriarch holding the family together in spite of difficulties.

Tad Sendzimir's life story is a rich addition to United States' immigration literature, history and experiences. It also shows the influence, accomplishments and contributions of Poles to American culture and society.

Daniel Mitchell is an independent scholar and specialist in immigration and ethnicity. He resides in Silver City, New Mexico.

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The Sarmatian Review
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