Updated 04-01-2019

Dr. Milan R. Vukcevich

This article was written by fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, and originally appeared on his own website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017, and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved here in the hope of maintaining access to his writings for the benefit of subsequent generations.

Dr. Milan R. Vukcevich

The following is a biographical sketch of an extraordinary man, as well as a review of some of his accomplishments in two disciplines, chess and science. In a limited sense it is an introduction to the contributions of a chess grandmaster to the knowledge base of lighting and lamps. While the writer has some ability to discuss the subject's role in lighting and lamps, he is unable to tackle the subject of chess, even at an elementary level. Therefore, comments from one chess enthusiast will be used to illustrate the impression the subject of this writing made in the field of chess.

The subject of this writing is Milan R. Vukcevich, whose picture, taken sometime in the 1990s, is shown above. His name became well known in the world of chess, first as a player and then as a chess problem composer. He also attained prominence as a scientist - not in pure science but rather in the practical world of lighting and lamps, and later in the area of alkali halide crystals.

Milan Radoje Vukcevich was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia on March 11 1937, being the son of Radoje J. Vukcevich and Christina (nee Trivanovic) Vukcevich4. His father graduated with a degree in law from Columbia University. Afterwards he studied at Kings College in England, at the Sorbonne in Paris and then he earned a doctorate in economics from Heidelberg University in Germany.

At the beginning of World War II Milan's father was living in the United States and was drafted by the U.S. War Department to be a liason officer with the Yugoslavian Royal Guerrillas. After the war ended he was forbidden to enter Yugoslavia, and Milan and his mother were not allowed to leave the country. Milan did not see his father until many years later, when he too entered the United States. Also, at the end of the war the family property was confiscated by the Communists, Milan's mother was jailed for eleven months and Milan, at age eight, was pronounced a war profiteer. In addition to that the family had their ration cards confiscated.

For a peek into Milan's family heritage and activities one should read his short autobiography (eleven pages) which appears in the front of the book titled My Chess Compositions4. In it he also describes family members and their activities during the Second World War.

At age five, while the BBC was listened to by family members for news of the war, Milan would generate more noise than the adults could appreciate. A solution to this disturbing activity was found by Milan's uncle, who bought a chess set for him. In his book Milan said4, regarding the chess set, "I began playing with everybody willing - and at any time, forever and ever." At that age Milan began to play chess with his mother. However, by the time he was ten his mother would no longer play with him because she would never win1. It was at the age of ten that he entered his first tournament. The game of chess continued to occupy a part of his life thereafter.

Milan gave a great deal of credit to two members of his family for their roles in nurturing him along in the world of chess2. One person was Milan Trivanovic (1903-1977), the uncle who presented a chess set to him at age five. He was Milan's first chess teacher and was a prominent player himself. The other person is Milan's half brother, Ivan Sprung, who is also a player. Ivan was born six years before Milan and he published his first chess problem at age fifteen.

Regarding his two worlds of activities, Milan said1:

"The so-called egg-head games, such as chess or bridge, are really phenomenal tools, marvelous teachers. They constantly present new situations, forcing you to analyze them and arrive at solutions, which is exactly what I do on my job. That's why I find chess and my work so compatible. I devote as much of my spare time to science as I do to chess."

Chess was not the only interest Milan had. Science was also dear to his heart. During the years 1955-1963 he attended the Institute of Technology at the University of Belgrade. In June of 1963 he graduated as Engineer of Metallurgy13 and the subject of his thesis was "Cold-Rolling of Magnetic Steel".

From 1963-1967 Milan attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in January of 1965 was awarded the Master of Science degree in Metallurgy; the title of his thesis was "Brittle Fracture of Steel". In August of 1967 he was awarded the Doctor of Science degree in Metallurgy and Material Science. His thesis was titled "Strain-Enhanced Diffusion".

Case Western Reserve and General Electric
Milan then began to teach at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio where he was Assistant Professor of Materials Science. He remained at Case from 1967 until 1973, when he decided to pursue a job in industry. He left Case to work in the Research Laboratory of the Lighting Division of the General Electric Company, which is located in East Cleveland.

Although Milan was considered by some to be a theoretical scientist, his work output indicates a broader range of interest, interaction and influence in the lighting business. For example, he applied his metallurgy background to develop a composite lead wire of molybdenum and tungsten as well as one of copper and steel. Milan even participated in determining a design for a multiple headlight system. He also patented a non-sag wire, an improvement on the universally accepted lamp wire that Aladar Pacz first developed in 1915. His lamp-related patents13 are described below.

The Science of Incandescence
A significant contribution can occur after a person labors within a technical field for several years. Although each discovery or explanation of a chemical or physical process is of importance by itself, a more insightful understanding of a problem can occur because of an examination on a broader and more comprehensive level. This is what Milan accomplished in bringing together not only his own work but also the work of others. Milan documented such an astute analysis in his book on incandescence.

The incandescent lamp appears to be simple in structure and operation. Indeed, it is. However, to describe it in precise terms, the secrets of the lamp are not so easy to get one's arms around. The revealing requires knowledge of higher mathematics, metallurgy, chemistry, and physics, at the very least. It is in the bringing together of all these disciplines that Milan gave3, the writer believes, one of his greatest gifts to the lamp industry.

The contents of Milan's book on incandescence are too extensive to be summarized in this self-imposed limited space. However, it is of interest to quote some of what he did say in his preface about incandescent lamps:

"...it is increasingly difficult to convince professionals and laymen that incandescent light sources have (a) future. The most frequent argument is that incandescent light is inefficient and that a planet starved for energy can ill afford the luxury of a lamp that transforms less than ten percent of energy into light.

"This is unfortunately true. However, people concerned with the future of mankind should also note that incandescent lights are still the only light sources which do not require ballasts and do not need any hazardous materials. What hazardous materials are left in incandescent products, such as lead in solders, are on their way out. Furthermore, there are billions of incandescent sockets which would have to be exchanged for more elaborate fixtures at considerable expense of many natural resources.

"Instead of abandoning the only light source with a continuous spectrum resembling sunshine, we should try to improve it by increasing its efficiency, while not radically changing either its appearance, or the quality of its light. For a mature technology, this is a tall order. To fulfill it, we need an extensive effort by professionals in many different fields: from experts on perception of light, to experts on confinement of infrared radiation."

The writer should emphasize that Milan did not imply in his writings that he had the answers to all of the questions that would arise. No one has a crystal ball. However, there are areas that he indicated might be worthy of additional study. These were not listed in order of importance. The areas are: 1) develop new filament materials that have selective radiation. It is known that some of these have been looked at, such as tantalum carbide, but problems experienced in the past might be overcome; 2) different regenerative cycles could be applied to materials other than tungsten. Perhaps a carbon filament could be considered again; 3) find ways of containing high gas pressures in halogen-type lamps. The trick is to avoid ruptures of the quartz tube; 4) continue studies of infrared film technology to increase lamp efficacy; 5) consider the use of infrared phosphors as well as 6) luminescent gases.

GE Positions
Milan took on new roles within the Lamp Business Group of the General Electric Company. From 1973 to 1981 he was a Research Metallurgist and from 1981 to 1987 he served as a Consulting Engineer. During the years 1987-1989 he was a Technical Leader in Refractory Materials Research and Development. He became Manager of Metallurgical Engineering and served in that capacity from 1990 to 1992. From 1989 to 1995 Milan was the Chief Scientist of Refractory Materials. He left the GE lighting business in 1995.

Work After GE
Starting in 1995, and continuing through 1999, Milan was the Director of Research and Development at Saint-Gobain, Crystals and Detectors Division in Solon, Ohio, and in 1999 he assumed the position of Chief Scientist. Beginning in 1995 he was a member of the Board of Directors of Northern Technologies International.

Milan Vukcevich retired from Saint-Gobain in the year 2001. He and his wife moved to Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona and Milan began to teach calculus at Chandler-Gilbert College. It was on Thanksgiving Day of 2001 when Milan was admitted to the emergency room of East Valley Lutheran Hospital, which is located in Mesa. A large tumor was detected in Milan's pelvic area. A biopsy indicated cancer. He returned to the Cleveland area and underwent surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Although there was some recovery, Milan passed away in his home in Shaker Heights on May 10, 20035,7. He is survived by his wife Michelle, sons Ivan and Marko, and brother Ivan. Milan was interred at Evergreen Hill Cemetery, South Franklin Street, Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Achievements in Chess
It is not necessary to comment on Milan's influence in the world of chess; others can, and have already done so7,8,9,10,11,12. However, this writer would be remiss not to list some of the tournaments he entered and honors received as a chess composer and player. A partial list follows:

Yugoslavia Junior Champion, 1955
1st Place on second board, Student Team World Championship, Leningrad, 1960
Olympic Bronze Medal, 1960
U.S.A. Senior Master, 1969
U.S. Open Co-Champion, 1969
FIDE International Master for Chess Composition, 1978
Third Place, FIDE World Solving Championship, Arnhem, Netherlands, 1981
First Place, FIDE World Chess Composition Tourney, 1983
Silver and Bronze Medals, Problem Olympiad, Greece, 1984
U.S. Grandmaster for Chess Problems, 1986
FIDE Grandmaster for Chess Composition, 1988
International Grandmaster for Chess Problems, 1989
U.S.A. Chess Hall of Fame, Hawaii, 1998
First Place, FIDE World Chess Composition Tourney, 2000
Note: - FIDE = Fédération Internationale des Écheques; World Chess Federation

Tributes by Chess Enthusiasts
As mentioned earlier, the writer is not familiar with the game of chess and cannot, therefore, make comments about Milan in that regard. However, there are tributes by members of the chess community; some of these can be found in a Supplement of StrateGems9. All of the tributes are worthy of being reproduced here. However, I shall chose one to represent the sentiments of all. This is the tribute by George P. Sphicas9:

"It is saddening beyond words to hear Milan has left us. The loss to the problemists' world is deep and painful. Sincere condolences to his wife and family. Milan Vukcevich joins the Pantheon of all-time greats in our art form. His achievements were enormous and extremely impressive, and his work will forever be admired and enjoyed. I will not focus on any specific masterpieces from the numerous he has produced, but rather I will share one particular memory that stands out in my mind. Some years ago the US team entered an international competition. One of the sections asked for selfmates in 2 with some particular theme. Milan quickly realized that most of the rest of us, here in the US, had little knowledge and experience with that genre. What he did for us was wonderful, in my opinion. He took a lot of time and effort to prepare a long, very detailed, and very enlightening tutorial, explaining how a composition was developed, from beginning to end. I remember I studied that very carefully, and once more I had the opportunity to admire how a great mind thinks and how a lot of different ideas and techniques are combined together. The tutorial he offered us was extremely useful, no doubt. But beyond its immediate usefulness, it showed great kindness and generosity on his part, a willingness to share his deep insights and masterly techniques with the rest of us. It is often said that a measure of greatness is how many well-taught students and disciples one leaves behind. As one of his followers and sometime student I will always be a grateful admirer. Milan's memory, his ideas and his work will always be with us".

The writer first saw Milan in the early 1970s at a weekly seminar held in the Lighting Research Laboratory at Nela Park, the headquarters of GE Lighting. At that time he was Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University. He presented the speech that day on the subject of tungsten. I had never heard anyone before who knew his subject to such a depth as did Milan. He displayed charisma even with what some might call a rather dull subject. It was almost impossible to forget the speech he gave that day. One of my colleagues, Jeanette Cooper, had the habit of sitting at the back of the conference room. Every Monday after the seminar speech had ended she was present to ask probing questions of the speaker. Her questions were always formidable and I often felt sorry for the speaker when the barrage took place. In the case with Milan, however, the depth of knowledge of his subject and his enjoyment of the challenge to answer questions simply made the entire seminar that much more enjoyable.

An impressive event occurred for the writer sometime later when Milan "took on" about 150 chess players in the walkway of the Severance Shopping Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. I was present to watch part of the contest. The contestants were seated at tables that were arranged in a rectangular shape. Milan was inside this area moving quickly from one opponent to another. His moves were made in a matter of seconds. He was on his feet for eight hours in that competition. It is reported that he tied three, lost one and won the rest of the games. His deep knowledge of the game, charm and outgoing manner were apparent as he pursued the challengers.

An example of the essence of the man was brought home to me in September of 1992 when I stopped at his office in Nela Park. After his usual gracious manner of greeting, he told me that he had written a book about incandescence and that he wanted to present a copy to me. Inside the cover he wrote a dedication, thanking me for all the work I had done which helped to make his book possible. It was a humbling experience because I knew that my writings were insignificant compared to his. That was the nature of the man. In many respects it might be said that he was a paragon, not only in chess and science, but also in his human makeup.

The writer is most grateful to Michelle Vukcevich for providing photocopies of several obituaries, articles of interest and Milan's Curriculum Vitae; she also provided the photograph of Milan for scanning. Without her help I couldn't have been able to write this biographical sketch and accomplishments summary. Edward G. Zubler also provided direction which allowed me to gather essential information.

Lamp-Related Publications
  1. "Radiation from Coiled Filaments", Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society, Presented at the 1984 Annual IES Conference, St. Louis, Missouri, Aug 5-9 1984.
  2. "A Computational First Principles Approach to Incandescent Lamp Design", Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society, Vol.18, 1989, pp.109-117 (with Timothy Page and Rolf Bergman).
  3. "Spheroidization of Potassium Bubbles in Tungsten Wire", Proceedings of the 5th International Tungsten Symposium, Budapest, Hungary, 1990.
  4. "The Science of Incandescence", Published by Advanced Technology Department, GE Lighting, Nela Park, E. Cleveland, Ohio. Printed by GEL Nela Press, 1992, 302 pages.
  5. "Potassium in Grain Boundaries of Tungsten", Materials Research Society Proceedings, Vol.322, p.537, 1994.

A Listing of Main Publications - as selected by Milan
  1. "A Statistical Treatment of Cleavage Initiation in Iron by Cracking of Carbides", in Physics of Strength and Plasticity, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969, p.295 (with M. Cohen).
  2. "On Elastic Properties of Covalent Crystals", Physica Status Solidi (b), Vol.40, 1970, p.193.
  3. "On the Mechanism of Cleavage Fracture Propagation in Polycrystalline Iron-Carbon Alloys", Scripta Metallurgica, Vol.4, 1970, p.553, (with E. R. Pearson).
  4. "On the Stability of Different Cubic Lattices for the Ionic Compounds of AC-Type", Physica Status Solidi (b), Vol.47 No 1, 1971, pp.99-110.
  5. "On de Launay Formulae for the Elastic Constants of Metals", Physica Status Solidi (b), Vol.50 No.1, 1972, pp.K17-K19.
  6. "A New Interpretation of the Anomalous Properties of Vitreous Silica", Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids, Vol.11, 1972, p.25.
  7. "On the Elasticity of Ionic Compounds Under Hydrostatic Pressure", Physica Status Solidi (b), Vol.54 No.1, 1972, pp.219-225.
  8. "On the Stability of the Alkali Halide Lattices Under Hydrostatic Pressure", Physica Status Solidi (b), Vol.54 No.2, 1972, pp.435-440.
  9. "Mathematical and Computational Aspects of a General Viscoelastic Theory", Journal of Rheology, Vol.31 Issue.8, Nov 1987, pp.785-813 (with Thomas F. Soules, Victor Chen and Alex Markovsky).
  10. "A Computational First Principles Approach to Incandescent Lamp Design", Journal of the Illuminating Engineering Society, Vol.18, 1989, pp.109-117, (with Timothy Page and Rolf Bergman).
  11. "Development of Potassium Pores in Tungsten Ingots", Proceedings of the Plansee Conference, Vol.5, 1989, (with J. L. Walter and K. A. Lou).
  12. "Spheroidization of Potassium Bubbles in Tungsten Wire", Proceedings of the 5th International Tungsten Symposium, Budapest, Hungary, 1990.
  13. "Potassium in Grain Boundaries of Tungsten", Materials Research Society Proceedings, Vol.322, 1994, p.537.
  14. "Improvements in Purification, Growth and Annealing of CaF2", Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium on Micro-Lithography, Onuma, Japan, 1997.
  15. "Network Folding in Silicates: I - Crystals, II - Glasses", to be published.
  16. "Conform Extrusion: I - Theory, II - Practice", to be published.

Lamp-Related Patents

  1. 1985, U.S. 4,503,488, Multiple Headlamp System
    This patent, held jointly with Thomas F. Soules, is for "A multiple headlamp system for vehicles, comprising at least two individual lamps having their filaments connected in electrical series. This permits the use of shorter filaments, and hence smaller diameter reflector lamps, without loss of optical control or reflector efficiency, for use in moderns cars having low-profile front ends for providing improved aerodynamic streamlining..."

  2. 1985, U.S. 4,547,704, Higher Efficiency Incandescent Lighting Units
    This patent, held jointly with Walter K. Brinn, Ivan Berlec, John M. Davenport, and Elmer G. Fridrich, is for an improved high efficiency general service incandescent lighting unit. "The lamp has coaxial outer and inner envelopes. The inner envelope has a low voltage filament coaxially disposed therein, a halogen gas atmosphere and a fill-gas at a high pressure. The outer envelope has a coating of a light transmissive reflective infrared film on its inner surface..."

  3. 1996, U.S. 5,528,105, Copper-Steel Composite Lead Wire in Incandescent Electric Lamps
    This patent, held jointly with Walter K. Brinn, Charles W. Cox and Stephen Rungwerth, "relates to a copper-steel composite wire suitable for use as inner lead wires in lamp applications. The subject copper-steel composite wire comprises a steel core having a thick copper cladding on the outside thereof such that the composite lead wire exhibits at least 30% IACS electrical conductivity..."

  4. 1998, U.S. 5,754,005, Electric Lamps Containing Leads of a Molybdenum and Tungsten Alloy
    This patent, held jointly with George E. Sakoske, Wayne A. Lasch, Joseph M. Ranish, Thomas H. Yu, Bernard W. Rachel, Richard G. Lynce, István Mészáros, György Nagy and Tamás Gál, concerns "An inlead for an electric lamp formed of an alloy of tungsten and molybdenum. The inlead has a rate of thermal expansion or contraction approximating that of the glass forming the bulb. This minimizes the expansion/contraction mis-match stress between the two materials. In addition, the alloy composition functions to reduce oxidation and degradation of the lead."

  5. 2001, U.S. 6,190,466, Non-Sag Tungsten Wire
    This patent, held jointly with Jozef Apagyi, István Mészáros, György Nagy, and Robert J. Arena, "relates to non-sag tungsten wire for being used in light sources or heating elements, which tungsten wire is prepared from a tungsten block by powder metallurgy process with thermomechanical technique, and has an overlapped crystal structure after recrystallization and contains a dopant material. The essential feature of the tungsten wire according to the invention is that as the dopant material, it contains at least one of the following additive materials: lanthanum/III/oxide, cerium dioxide."

  1. "How About a Stimulating Game of Chess? Just be Careful of Who's Asking!", GE Lighting News, Cleveland, Ohio, March 1, 1977.
  2. "Chess by Milan - Problems and Games of Dr. Milan R. Vukcevich, Milan R. Vukcevich, 1981, MIM Company, Burton, Ohio, 153 pages.
  3. "The Science of Incandescence", Milan R. Vukcevich, Published by Advanced Technology Department, GE Lighting, Nela Park, E. Cleveland, Ohio. Printed by GEL Nela Press, 1992, 302 pages.
  4. "My Chess Compositions, Milan Vukcevich, StrateGems, 2613 Northshore Lane, Westlake Village, California 91361, 2003, 164 pages.
  5. "Milan R. Vukcevich, Chess Grandmaster", Obituary, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio, May 14 2003, p.B7.
  6. "Eulogy for Milan R. Vukcevich", Michelle Vukcevich, May 15 2003.
  7. "Milan Vukcevich - Grandmaster in the Skill of Composing Artful and Elegant Chess Problems", Obituary, The Times (London), Jun 11 2003.
  8. "Milan R. Vukcevich, 11.3.1937 - 10.5.2003", The Problemist, The British Chess Problem Society, Vol.19 No.4, July 2003.
  9. "Dr. Milan R. Vukcevich 1937-2003", StrateGems, U.S. Chess Problem Magazine, Vol.6, July-September Supplement.
  10. "Milan Vukcevich, Ph. D. (1937 - 2003)", John Donaldson, Chess Life, Aug 2003, p.35.
  11. "Remembering Milan Vukcevich", Robert H. Burns, Jr., Chess Life, Aug 2003, p.36.
  12. Introduction to Milan's book titled My Chess Compositions, by Mike Prcic, 2003.
  13. Curriculum Vitae, Milan R. Vukcevich.