July 27th 2016
Wolfgang Backé passed away († July 21st 2016)
Shortly before entering his 88th year of life he died caused by a severe illness
On the 21st of July 2016 fluid power lost an outstanding researcher and advocate of hydraulics and pneumatics with the death of em. Univ. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h. c. mult. Wolfgang Backé.
Wholeheartedly his life belonged to the development of fluid power. The decision was made early on by him studying mechanical engineering at RWTH Aachen University choosing the study direction
of production engineering. He deepened the subject in fluid power research and got promoted to Dr.-Ing. in 1959 at the machine tool laboratory WZL under the direction of Prof. Opitz. Building upon
this he further qualified by a habilitation towards the subject of flow forces in valves in the year 1962.
After a time as Chief Engineer at WZL, a following industrial career as head of the development department of the company Rheinstahl Wagner and teaching obligations by his Venia Legendi for the subject
“Ölhydraulische Steuerungen und Antriebe“ in Aachen, Wolfgang Backé , born on July 25th in 1929, accepted the offer to take over the newly created chair “Lehrstuhl für
hydraulische und pneumatische Antriebe und Steuerungen“ (IHP) and the directorship for the Institute carrying the same name, todays IFAS. He was head of the Institute till his official retirement in 1994
and led it to the biggest and most renowned institution in the field of fluid power with national and international recognition and an outstanding worldwide reputation.
Wolfgang Backé was scientist and researcher with full believe and thereby devoted to fluid power like nobody else. With his creative power he transformed fluid power in Germany, Europe and overseas.
In academia as well as in the industrial sector he helped this process by manifold consulting and his directorships in company boards leading to the success story we know. Early on he forged unique networks,
which are still used by the following generations of researchers in our field. For me it is important to emphasize that these networks also stretched into the social environment and actively included the partners.
This way many conference, business and cultural travels were backed by the families. They were part of it, involved in the preparation and unofficially the group was called the “Fluid Power Gang“.
He passed on his knowledge by teaching students and conducting as well as supervising research and development projects with the upcoming engineering generations. Even after being retired he still actively
participated in the scientific live and kept publishing papers and books.
He supervised 124 doctoral candidates and guided them to graduation, thereby starting their subsequent industrial careers. Many former students and scientific researcher are employed in notable positions in the
fluid power industry. Some returned to Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences to pass on the knowledge to young academics they themselves learned through him. Some examples are Prof. Young-Xiang
Lu, who was President of the Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and Prof. Chung-O. Lee, who for a long time was Minister of Research and Technology in South Korea.
Manifold contacts and partnerships with other institutes in the field of fluid power in America, Asia, Australia and Europe give evidence of his worldwide recognition in the industry. Within RWTH Aachen University
his interdisciplinary research was backed by collaborative research centers where he participated and took over leadership functions. This work was complemented by common research projects initiated and guided
by the Engineering Federation Fluid Power within VDMA in Frankfurt. These projects covered fluid power in industrial and mobile hydraulic applications, handling and automation technology, as well as biomedicine.
In addition to these commitments in his subject, he also participated in the academic self-administration of the University. In that regard he was Dean of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in 1974 and 1975.
Without exaggeration it can be stated that based on his research and teaching focal points, as well as his involvement in the in appointments for Institute leaderships , his research, development and teaching activities,
todays fluid power in Germany has achieved a highly recognized technical stand.
Together with high ranked industrial representatives he founded the society for the advancement of fluid power (Fördervereinigung Fluidtechnik, e.V., Aachen) to promote, e.g., infrastructural projects, conduct
national and international conferences and support teaching. This way he was able to found the biannually organized international fluid power conference. It started in 1974 as 1. AFK and continues today with
the IFK, alternating between the cities of Aachen and Dresden.
Next to a lot of academic honors, he was awarded three honorary doctor degrees and two honorary professorships. He obtained the highly ranked German Federal Cross of Meritin 1988 (“Verdienstkreuz am
Bande des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland“) and in 1997 (“Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse der Bundesrepublik Deutschland“).
With his death the Institute - and with it the “Fördervereinigung Fluidtechnik“ - loses his highly regarded scientist, researcher and teacher, as well as its founding member.
Our deep sympathy is with his wife, Ms. Rosi Seiz-Backé, and his Family. We will always keep our mentor in highest regard and in honorable memory.
Aachen, July 2016