Milos Krofta (1912-2002)
1997 Paper Industry International Hall of Fame Inductee
Krofta Engineering Corporation
Lenox, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Milos Krofta was born in Ljubljana, capital city of Slovenia, on July 23, 1912. The region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which became Yugoslavia after World War I. In 1992, the beautiful, partially alpine territory finally obtained its independence.
While he was in high school, Dr. Krofta decided to study mechanical engineering. He completed his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in Ljubljana and continued his studies in Prague, Czechoslovakia. In 1934, at age 22, he was the youngest engineering graduate in the history of the school. In Fall of that year, he began his specialization at the University for Paper Engineering in Darmstadt, West Germany. While in Prague, Dr. Krofta met his future wife, Maria Hybler. They married in 1937. The following year, he obtained his doctorate in papermaking technology.
Because Dr. Krofta’s father and uncle were financially involved in three paper mills, there was no question about his future employment, and he went to work in the largest of the mills in Yugoslavia. When Austria became part of Nazi Germany, most of the Austrians employed in Yugoslavia returned to their homeland, including the general manager of the Vevce Paper Mill where Dr. Krofta served as his assistant. Under this situation, Dr. Krofta became the general manager of all three mills at age 26. With World War I1 on the horizon, the demand for all materials and goods was so great that the mills were producing 150 tons a day — half the total demand of the entire country.
In 1941, the war reached Yugoslavia. Slovenia was split in two, with the Germans taking the north, including two of the Krofta factories, and the Italians capturing the south, where the larger mill was located. The Germans dismantled the two smaller mills, loaded the managers and workers into boxcars and transported them to Serbia. The large mill in Vevce, where Dr. Krofta remained in command, was under Italian occupation, and the region was declared the Italian Province of Ljubljana
When Italy fell in 1943, the Germans took Vevce. As one of the largest employers in the country, Dr. Krofta fought to preserve jobs and save his workers from the camps. At the end of the war in 1945, the mill was confiscated by the communists. In July, Dr. Krofta learned that he was to be arrested as a capitalist enemy of the people. Within a few hours, he decided to leave with a devoted employee, and they drove 70 miles in the only charcoal powered car to Trieste, which was under English military rule. Dr. Krofta, his wife, and two small daughters were reunited six months later.
For six years, Dr. Krofta operated successfully as a consultant in Switzerland and Italy. In 1951, when the war in Korea erupted and the Italian Communist Party made great political gains, the Kroftas immigrated to the United States.
During his managerial years in the Vevce Paper Mill, Dr. Krofta contemplated ways of reducing fiber loss, which then was not considered important. Because he believed fiber loss was substantial and pollution excessive, he began studying how to build more efficient equipment.
Dr. Krofta was an early and ardent advocate of water reuse and zero discharge. Starting in 1960, he built installations based on the dissolved air flotation principle. After several successful installations, he proved the advantages of his system. He promoted further sales through newly-founded offices in several countries. The reuse of wastewater was greatly facilitated by installing his patented flotation units, which at the same time protected the environment and reduced almost totally the use of fresh water. Nearly 3,000 Krofta flotation savealls and clarifiers are operating around the world. The principle of flotation combined with filtration is also applicable for potable water in many other industries.
Dr. Krofta was the founder of Krofta Engineering Corporation, Krofta Waters, Inc., and Lenox Institute for Water Technology, a nonprofit research and educational institution. Through his personal effort and sacrifice, combined with his leadership capabilities, he built the worldwide Krofta organization, which began as a one-man operation in 1947. During his career, Dr. Krofta published over 400 technical reports and papers and has more than 60 U.S. and foreign patents to his credit.
Dr. Krofta, a TAPPI Fellow, was also a Professional Engineer in N.E. States, and Diplomat of Academy of Environmental Engineers. He was a member of American Water Works Association, and American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and was active with the American Society of Testing Materials. He received the Five-Star Award from Pollution Engineering Magazine in 1982.
Dr. Krofta worked full time, seven days a week, until his death in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Maria, who resides in Lenox, Massachusetts.