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Being There

by Clare Coppa

John Newby has a boundless capacity for doing.

Five children call him dad, metallurgists consult him for advice, and standards societies like ASTM International, ISO, SAE, and ASM count on him to standardize metalworking techniques. In May when this 79 year old wasn’t at ISO meetings in Brazil, he was preparing his classic car for a June show and attending three art classes per week. “I have a lot of interests,” says Newby from his home in Middletown, Ohio. “I enjoy helping people. I like to do things.”

That includes teaching gun safety for the Boy Scouts of America and the National Rifle Association. “I do not hunt, so my interest is in preventing misuse and injury,” he says. “I don’t shoot animals but I do enjoy shooting targets.” He also teaches firearm safety for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “Every new hunter has to pass that course before they can get a hunting license,” he says.

Newby is an idea man, a metallurgical engineer specializing in formability and performance of metals. His initial research in the 1950s led to the development of interstitial-free steel, a “super steel” that’s pure, clean and resists rust. “It’s now the premier metal of the steel industry,” he says. “It has better formability than regular steel.”

Steel is his favorite metal. “Other materials can do some, but not all of the things steel can do,” he avers. “One of the best things about steel is—and this is very important—it’s recyclable. When you’re finished using it, you can melt it down and make more steel. No other metal or plastic does that as well as steel.” He considers his research on interstitial-free steel, and writing an SAE strain-analysis technique among his top achievements.

A U.S. delegate to ISO TC164/SC2 on Ductility, Newby is currently developing an international forming-limit standard for metals. He has developed standards with ASTM Committee A01 on Steel since 1952, and later with Committee E28 on Mechanical Testing, winning several awards and serving as chairman.

Newby retired in 1985 from Armco, Inc. to begin consulting. Before he did steel research at Armco, he tried to convince a previous employer to take up electrogalvanizing. His employer ignored Newby’s vision and electrogalvanizing became a key process for auto-bodies, he says.

Speaking of steel, Newby owns a two-ton steel 1933 Studebaker. “My dad bought a ’33 when I was about 10 years old,” he says. “I always liked that car.”

If art is an extension of the self, Newby has been extending himself since 1980 at the Middletown Fine Arts Center. “There’s a lot of thought that has to go into making a good piece,” he says. But that doesn’t apply to his award-winning drawing, “Park.” “I finished that one in about 20 minutes,” he says, laughing.

Perhaps Newby makes the most of his talents because he survived a plane crash in World War II. “Fortunately, the plane did not explode, but after the first impact skidded and bounced with sparks and flames coming from the engines,” he says about a mammoth B-29. He was soaked with gasoline and wedged beneath a bulkhead. Luckily, someone pulled him out.

Copyright 2002, ASTM