What happened to Karnig Eksergian?
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Posted 22 July 2009 - 03:46 AM
What happened to Karnig Eksergian?
By Vahan Altiparmak
The Eksergian family of Constantinople (Istanbul) was a well known and respected Armenian family in the 19th Century. The most famous of this family was painter and teacher Telemarque Eksergian, who was born in Constantinople in 1840 and who at a very early age started painting. His teacher was the famous Apraham Sakarian. Telemarque was one of the leaders of the Armenian community, working as the secretary for the Patriarch of Constantinople. He taught art for many years in various Armenian schools around the city and was elected as one of the representatives of the Armenian community to meet and congratulate Sultan Abdulhamit when he came to the throne. He had many students around the world, the most famous being Simon Agopian. Telemarque exhibited his paintings in Paris, New York and Boston. His two sons were the architect Levon Eksergian, living in Constantinople, and Eddie Eksergian, one of the most talented caricaturists in USA history. Telemarque died in USA on 8 August 1891, after a 3 year long illness.
Telemarque’s brother Karnig Eksergian was unknown to many, not only to the Armenian Diaspora community, but even to those in Constantinople. The only information that could be found about him until now was that he was a painter like his brother. His only known painting in Constantinople was the portrait of his holiness Kapriel Basmaciyan, carrying Karnig’s signature in Armenian, which now belongs to the Patriarch of Constantinople.
Here is the story of Karnig, publicly captured for the first time:
Karnig Eksergian was born in 1858 in Constantinople. From a young age he started painting portraits, learning from his older brother Telemaque Eksergian. The quality of his work was such that he was commissioned to paint a *****’s portrait when he was only 11 years old. When he was 12 years old he travelled to USA and during his voyage he painted many portraits of the other travellers, earning his voyage fee. He arrived in Boston Massachusetts in 1870. Shortly after he arrived, he commenced working as a portrait painter and obtained further lessons from American painters. He exhibited his work mainly in the National Academy of Design in New York.
Four years after Karnig’s arrival in the USA, his brother Telemarque and one of Telemarque’s sons, Eddie, joined him and they worked together for many years painting famous and rich people, portraits that made them famous. Karnig Eksergian became very rich in a short period of time. He married a violin teacher in 1887 and they had two sons. Karnig himself played the violin at a professional level and was also an orchestra conductor. This family information I was able to obtain from his granddaughter Gloria (Eksergian) Shaw’s personal letters (Gloria was Rupen Eksergian’s daughter). Gloria was a talented equestrian and dance teacher, who lived and died in Massachusetts, USA. These letters were written by Gloria to her maternal grandfather. Karnig’s large family mansion in Boston was visited by many artistic personalities of the time, like the 20th Century great composer Alan Hovhannes (Alan Vaness Chakmakciyan) and many others. He was also one of the pioneers of the women’s rights campaign in the USA. Karnig’s family and home preserved and reflected fully the Armenian culture and identity.
On 30 March 1889 his first son Rupen was born, who grew up in a very modern and artistic family, and started playing violin at a very early age. Rupen graduated from M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) with honours and became a railways engineer. Nine years after the birth of Rupen, Karnig Eksergian’s second son Carolus Levon was born on 10 May, 1898. C. Levon also graduated from M.I.T. with honours and he also became a railway engineer. Rupen and Levon Eksergian are recognised in world history as the fathers of the lightweight modern train.
Karnig’s first son, Rupen, started working for the legendary Budd Company of Chicago and became chief engineer of this Company in just two years, when he was in his early 30’s. In the early 1930s, the U.S. was in the depths of the Great Depression. Peopla could not afford cars and the main transportation was the train. The Bud Company wanted to make cheap but fast trains, utilising the new diesel engine technology. Rupen was given the task of leading this very challenging project, with very limited resources and a tight timeline. During this project, Rupen made many brilliant inventions. First, he designed the aerodynamic shape of the train, second he invented a lightweight press metal structure for the passenger carriages, and then he invented the first suspension system for the train, which is still in use today.
This train was called the Zephyr. On 26 May 1934, it set a speed record for travel between Denver, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois, when it made a 1,015 mile (1,633 km) non-stop trip in 13 hours 5 minutes at an average speed of 77 mph (124 km/h). For one section of the run it reached a speed of 112.5 mph (181 km/h), just short of the then US land speed record of 115 mph (185 km/h). The train entered regular revenue service on 11 November 1934, between Kansas City, Missouri, Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska.
Rupen also came up with the double bunker deck sleeping carriages for long journeys. Another of his inventions on this project was the adaptable carrier wagons, with the flexibility in structure of carrying many different goods, from timber to livestock.
Rupen Eksergian also invented the train’s expanding shoe drum brake system in 1948. With the new braking system, a traing travelling at 100 km/hr could stop in 30 metres, versus the traditional braking system of 110 meters He invented the precompressed radially soft drive coupling that dampens vibration. He also invented the hydraulic pressure relief valve, designed for the Lockheed Aerospace Company (in 1995, Lockheed merged with Martin Marietta and became one of the world’s largest multinational aerospace manufacturer and advanced technology company, today known as “Lockheed Martin” Aerospace Company). Lockheed Martin still use Rupen’s invention in every one of their airplanes.
In the 1940’s the American Government asked Rupen to work on millitary weapons as part of the World War II efforts. He first invented the anti airplane machine gun stand, which could be operated at full 360 degrees. This stand was installed in all the war ships, and used in the Pacific Battle.
In his highly successful career, Professor Rupen Eksergian was awarded the prestigious George R Henderson Medal, for his outstanding work in Railway Engineering (in 1944) and the Worcester Reed Warner Medal, awarded to an individual for outstanding contribution to the permanent literature of engineering (in 1937). He served as technical advisor for the Aeronautic National Advisory Committee of U.S.A. He was the recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Engineering Honors & Awards, and received another Worcester Reed Warner Medal 1963. Professor Rupen Eksergian was widely known as father of the lightweight supersonic modern train.
Karnig’s youngest son Dr C. Levon Eksergian started working with his brother at the Budd Company as railway engineer in the mid 1930’s. After the Great Depression Levon started working on land vehicles. In 1935 the first disc brakes were used in passenger cars, courtesy of the Budd Company, who were looking for a quiet, uniform passenger car brake system. The inventor of this new braking system was Levon Eksergian. In 1936 he designed a lightweight pressed rim which is used in all land vehicles today and which provides sufficient durability for use on rough terrain. The wheel includes a central hub, a peripheral rim which retains a tire, and a plurality of extensions which extend between the hub and rim. The rim is constructed substantially from a single sheet of material pressed and cut to form the elements of the wheel (the press machine of this rim was invented by another Armenian, Asadur Sarafian). It can be manufactured cheaply and efficiently and is used in all cars today. In the early 1940’s Levon Eksergian also invented the first practical braking system for trucks which has a different mechanism then passenger cars.
During World War II at the request of the USA government, Levon Eksergian started working on war weapons, like his brother. In 1946 he invented the recoilless gun mechanism which revolutionised the war weapons of the time. His biggest invention of the World War II era was the Rocket Projectile. As the US government did not enter World War II until a later stage, this very important invention was secretly given to their ally Britian. This projectile invention was used by the British government in their air to ground rockets (solid-shot armour piercing rocket). This technology was generally used by British fighter-bomber aircraft against targets such as tanks, trains, motor transport and buildings, and by Coastal Command and Royal Navy aircraft against U-Boats and shipping. This invention was so strong and unique that no other patent could be filed in this field for another 13 years.
The legacy of the Eksergian family of Constantinople will live forever through their mechnical engineering equation, bearing their name:
“Equation of the movement of Eksergian” - (I (q) q '' + 0.5 [d (I (q))/dq] (q')^2 = Q.)
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