Erhard Mettler was born in St. Gallen, a small city in northeastern Switzerland known for its textile industry. Mettler’s family members were textile business owners. After training in precision mechanics Mettler started his own company, Mettler Instrumente AG, in the Küsnacht suburb of Zurich. Here he developed his revolutionary single-pan substitution balance. The Mettler balance, introduced in 1946, was faster, more convenient, and more accurate over a greater scale than the traditional two-pan, equal-arm balance. At first Mettler found it difficult to interest laboratories in the United States in his new balance, but soon Fisher Scientific Company began marketing the novel instruments for him, and his design gradually replaced the older type.
By the mid-1950s Mettler Instrumente was manufacturing balances accurate to one ten-millionth of a gram, but the company refused to rest on its laurels. In 1973 it unveiled the first fully electronic precision balance, the PT1200. Mettler’s enthusiastic support of his company’s R&D is credited with pushing through this and other innovations. He sold Mettler Instrumente to Ciba-Geigy AG in 1980 and retired from the business, although he continued to take an active interest in new technology until his death in 2000. In 1989 Ciba-Geigy orchestrated the merger of Mettler Instrumente with Toledo Scale Corporation, the largest U.S. manufacturer of industrial and retail scales, forming Mettler Toledo. Now owned by AEA Investors, Mettler Toledo has annual revenues in excess of $1 billion.
In 1968 Mettler received an honorary doctorate from the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich).
A 1960s Mettler Instrumente ad.