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Notable Chemists

Some past presidents and other notable chemists, many associated with SCI:

Henry E Armstrong

Henry E Armstrong Henry Edward Armstrong (1848-1937) was a Professor of Chemistry at the London Institution. He later worked at St Bartholomew's Hospital, the City and Guilds Institute (later part of Imperial College) and the Central Technical Institute.

His life's work was centred on chemistry education within engineering schools, and through it he came to be recognised as a founding father of chemical engineering. He played an important part in establishing the SCI Process Engineering Group.

Henry Armstrong, the Society's first Messel Medallist, was a visionary, a pioneer, and a highly respected Member. His influence and progressive approach helped shape changing attitudes towards chemistry and contributed to the growth of chemistry's industrial application. It is widely acknowledged that partly thanks to his inspiration and the breadth of his interests, many students went on to develop technologies that have helped lay the foundation for modern products and processes.

In 1943 Professor Armstrong's son and daughter, together with an anonymous donor, endowed a lecture in his memory to honour achievers in chemical engineering, materials science and engineering, energy efficiency or a related field.

Leo Baekeland

Leo BaekelandDr Leo Baekeland, who came from Belgium but settled in the US, was a born entrepreneur. He made the prodigious fortune of $1m in 1899 when he sold the rights to a new photographic paper to George Eastman of Kodak. The new paper, known as Velux, did not rely on sunlight to develop images, so that photographers could develop by artificial light instead.

With his windfall, Baekeland bought a handsome estate near New York, and a car, much to the chagrin of his horse-owning neighbours, who called him a 'gasoline devil'. After converting a barn into a laboratory, he looked around for another venture.

The new electrical industry relied on a natural material, shellac, for insulators. Shellac was derived from a resin deposited by beetles in southeast Asia, but supplies were limited. Baekeland and his assistant spent three years working on an artificial replacement, and finally in 1907 came up with a new material, which he called Bakelite.

He got there by heating phenol and formaldehyde in the presence of an acid or base, to produce a shellac-like liquid that could be used for coating surfaces. Further heating made the mixture more solid, and when put in an autoclave he called a 'bakelizer,' it produced a hard, transparent, mouldable substance we would recognise as plastic.

According to his memorial address, published in Chemistry & Industry in August 1945: 'All previous workers on this reaction had used either a substantial quantity of an acid accelerator and produced a permanently fusible shellac-like body … or so much alkali catalyst that the reaction was uncontrollable and a hard spongy-like mass was produced of no commercial value.'

His own comment about the previous failures was that 'they should have succeeded, but they wouldn't'.

After patenting the material, known to chemists as polyoxybenzylmethylen-glycolanhydride, he unveiled it to the American Chemical Society in 1909 in three versions, Bakelite A, B and C. It was Bakelite C that was of particular interest as an insulator.

Baekeland played an active role within SCI for many years. He attended a conference in Manchester in 1906, and was awarded the William Perkin Medal in 1916 and the Messel Medal in 1938. After his death the Baekeland lectures were inaugurated.

His observations on getting products to market would not be unfamiliar to many today: 'Many fortunes have been swallowed up because the research men underestimated the factor of the time development. In other cases, while expensive research went on, the trend of the market had changed or entirely new improvements had been introduced which rendered the initial problem obsolete.'

Bakelite was not quite the first plastic, as celluloid, which was ultimately derived from cotton and other vegetable matter, had been around for some time. But it was the first synthetic plastic, and the General Bakelite Corporation was set up to manufacture and license such early 20th century essentials including pipe stems, billiard balls, knife handles, phonograph records, knobs and buttons.

George Beilby

George BeilbySir George Beilby, (1850-1924) is renowned as one of the leading applied scientists of his age. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh at 19, Beilby began his professional life in the oil shale industry in 1869. His pioneering work greatly increased yields, breathing new life into this area of the energy industry. He then focused on, and enjoyed equal success in, finding new processes to recover gold by the cyanide process.

Sir George Beilby's long and remarkable career as scientist and industrialist was marked by an enduring interest in the twin concerns of fuel economy and smoke abatement. His dedication and energetic research had great significance for the fuel and metal industries, and produced far-reaching advantages for society.

Coupled with this, his commitment to education was a driving force behind the development of the practical scientific training in an industrial context, enlisting the support of fellow industrial leaders. For many years he served as Chairman of Governors of what is now the University of Strathclyde.

He was SCI World President in 1898 and contributed greatly to SCI's growth in Scotland. A Beilby Memorial Fund to reward exceptional research was raised in his honour by subscription.

Hans Bolliger

Hans R Bolliger (1918 - 1976) was an active Member of SCI, being inaugural Chairman of the Society's Health and Safety Group and Chairman of the Manchester Section (the precursor to Liverpool and North West) from 1966-1969.

Born in Switzerland, Bolliger studied at Basel University and Iowa State College, USA. In 1952 he began working as a Research Chemist at CIBA in Basel, and in 1955 he moved to the UK where he became Research and Development Director of Clayton Aniline Co Ltd.

Bolliger's 23-year career with the famous CIBA Group was focused on the research, development and production of dyestuffs. The products he developed and distributed helped to change the world of formation and finishing. Samples of yarns and fabrics dyed with Clayton Products are now held in an archive in the Heriot-Watt University Archives, Edinburgh.

Hans Bolliger's popular leadership of SCI is commemorated in a Memorial Lecture.

Hamilton Castner

CastnerHamilton Young Castner (1853-1899) was a scientist, engineer and industrialist who changed the world in several respects. He is best known as a pioneer in the field of industrial electrochemistry.

Castner was born in New York City, and studied at Brooklyn Polytechnic and at the School of Mines, Columbia University. He then set up as a consultant and was involved in many startling innovations, including those in the battle against cholera.

A Founder Member of SCI, Castner moved from the USA to the UK to gain financial backing through his SCI connections. He had created an enterprise in Old Bury near Birmingham to supply the Weber Crown Metal Company with sodium for the manufacture of aluminium - then a very expensive metal - by reduction of aluminium chloride.

Eventually he settled in Cheshire, where he established an enterprise that later formed a significant part of ICI (then, Imperial Chemical Industries) on its foundation.

He discovered a better process for caustic soda manufacture, resulting in the now world-famous mercury cell for the electrolysis of brine. His process was patented in 1892 and was soon established in many parts of the world, making full use of his SCI connections. In 1897, with the help of Ludwig Mond, he set up the Castner-Kellner Alkali Company with Karl Kellner of Austria, who had been following a parallel research path.

Despite his remarkable ingenuity and commercial success, Castner is remembered as an unassuming man who sadly died at the young age of 41 from tuberculosis.

Charles Chandler

Charles ChandlerCharles Chandler, SCI's President from 1899–1900, did much to improve sanitation and safety in 19th century America.

Before 1873, New York's milkmen watered down the city's milk so much they netted themselves an extra $10,000 a day. Slaughterhouses had no sanitary supervision at all. Tenement houses were built with no regard for adequate light and ventilation. The kerosene used for lighting contained explosive naphtha fractions and, with no quality control, accidents were rife.

After Chandler and his associates had addressed these concerns, the city's death rate for children under five dropped by 5,000 a year.

Born in Massachusetts in 1836, Chandler was the son of a draper. A chance gift of test tubes, an alcohol lamp and some other pieces of apparatus fired a life-long interest in chemistry, though his early experiments in the wooden shed he used as a laboratory nearly set the house on fire.

Needing money for chemicals and apparatus, he did a deal with his father - for $1 a week he would sweep and open up the shop five days a week. This willingness to take on menial tasks was to win him his first job as a chemist.

He went to Harvard and the Lawrence Scientific School and studied chemistry under Wöhler at Göttingen, Germany, returning to the US in 1857. Prof Joy of Union College, Schenectady (New York) wanted him as an assistant, but the college trustees refused to come up with a salary. The only post going was for a janitor, so Chandler rolled up his shirt sleeves and got to work, filling in as a lab assistant and teaching students when he could.

He did not stay a janitor for long, and by 1864 he was offered a chair at the new School of Mines at Columbia College (now university), where his younger brother William, who also became an SCI Member, was to join him. Even then the pay was uncertain, and his salary depended on attracting students. He must have managed this with no problems, as he was to spend 50 years at Columbia.

Another decade on, and Chandler was appointed President of the Metropolitan Board of Health. This was evidently a wide-ranging position, judging by the huge amount he and his team accomplished.

Chandler cleaned up the public markets and established sanitation. He regulated the gas supply, and established regulations for kerosene, so reducing the frequent number of lamp explosions.

Recognising that poor housing was taking its toll on the population's health, he lobbied for a Tenement House Act, which required plans for tenement dwellings to be submitted to the health authorities, complete with provision for adequate light and ventilation.

As household plumbing was often primitive, he designed an improved siphon system and flush tanks for lavatories, purposefully not taking out a patent to encourage rapid take-up. Then he cleaned up the city's water supply.

New York's under-fives were doubtless the first to benefit from his campaign for pure milk, which must have put some of those corrupt milkmen out of business. He also discovered and prevented the sale of adulterated alcoholic drinks and poisoned cosmetics.

Realising access to medical care was also inadequate, he introduced home visits for doctors into the congested areas of New York, which despite the recent creation of Central Park, were very congested indeed, as well as free vaccinations. He also established separate hospitals for contagious diseases.

Chandler somehow found time to found and edit a journal, American Chemist, with his brother William, which was published until 1877, and he often appeared as an expert witness in court cases.

He joined forces with another SCI President, Dr W H Nichols, to fix the meaning of the Beaumé scale for sulphuric acid, as '66 Beaumé' had become no more than a label.

Nor did he neglect chemistry, having an active interest in sugar, petroleum, illuminating gas, photographic materials, aniline dyes and electrochemistry. He was instrumental in founding the American Chemical Society in 1876 and its Journal of the American Chemical Society, which succeeded American Chemist.

Chandler died in 1925 aged nearly 89, surprisingly enough not of exhaustion.

Carl Hanson

HansonCarl Hanson (1934-1985), a distinguished chemical engineer, is noted for his contributions to the science and technology of solvent extraction.

Following graduation, Prof Hanson joined the UK Atomic Energy Authority where he worked on the development of mixer-settlers for solvent extraction processing before joining the University of Bradford in 1960. There he continued his research, developing and leading an internationally recognised teaching and research centre in the science and technology of liquid-liquid (solvent) extraction.

In addition to publishing many scientific papers he published several seminal books including the Handbook of Solvent Extraction that he edited with Professors Lo and Baird in 1983. He also directed a series of continuing education courses on solvent extraction that were presented on a regular basis around the world. He was Secretary to the Organising Committee for the International Solvent Extraction Conference (ISEC71) and when the International Committee for Solvent Extraction (ICSE) was established in 1974 he was the unanimous choice as General Secretary.

Prof Hanson was also an active member of SCI and was a founder member of the Solvent Extraction Group (now the Separation Science and Technology Group) of the Society, later becoming its Chairman. Following his sudden death in 1985, SCI and the German society Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Chemisches Apparatewesen, Chemishe Technik und Biotechnolgie e.V (DECHEMA) jointly instituted the Carl Hanson Medal in 1986.

Prof Em Mike Cox

Roland Harper

Roland HarperDr Roland Harper (1916 - 1992) played an influential and leading role in shaping the modern face of consumer and sensory science. He is respected still as an important figure in the growth and application of sensory science, and remembered with fondness by SCI's Consumer and Sensory Research Group. Prior to this Group's formation, he was an active contributor in the Sensor Panel of the SCI's Food Group.

Thomas Hilditch

Thomas Hilditch, image courtesy of the Burgess familyProf Thomas Percy Hilditch (1886-1965) held the first Campbell Brown Chair of Industrial Chemistry at the University of Liverpool in England. He was a graduate of University College London and also studied in Jena, Germany, and Geneva. An outstanding authority on oils and fats, Hilditch's early interest centred on organic sulphur compounds, and he entered the field of fat chemistry by chance.

Hilditch joined the research laboratories of Joseph Crosfield and Sons Ltd in 1911, where he helped further develop the industrial application of the hydrogenated fats. He joined Liverpool University in 1926 and went on to establish an internationally renowned school of fat chemistry.

His research group at the University of Liverpool during the 1930s, 40s and 50s carried out many compositional analyses on a wide range of lipid substances using the most advanced techniques available at the time.

Prof Hilditch helped establish the Oils and Fats Group, now known as the Lipids Group (see the History of the Lipids Group). He was its inaugural Chairman and a formative influence in the extension of its activities. He was also closely associated with the Society's Liverpool Section (now the Liverpool and North West Regional Group) and served twice as its Chairman.

Robert Horne

Robert HorneRobert Stevenson Horne (1871-1940) received a First Class Honours degree in Philosophy at Glasgow University. Horne first became a lecturer in Philosophy, then a successful businessman, as well as a British Member of Parliament for many years.

He held a number of high ranking political posts including Third Civil Lord of the Admiralty, President of the Board of Trade and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Viscount Horne of Slamannan was a staunch supporter of SCI for many years. A lecture was endowed in his name in 1943 by one of his industrial interests, the Imperial Smelting Corporation of which he was the first Chairman. Focusing on the materials sector, the lecture is traditionally given in either a Bristol or a South Wales venue in the UK. The South West areas of England and Wales are both industrially diverse, with manufacturing, minerals and energy companies continuing to play an important, if diminished, role in the economies of the regions.

Ferdinand Hurter

Ferdinand HurterDr Ferdinand Hurter (1844-1898) was born in Switzerland and was a founding Member of SCI.

He established the Central Laboratory, built in 1881 by the United Alkali Company. Here, in addition to many important industrial processes being developed, the foundations of scientific photography were laid. Ferdinand Hurter together with Vero Charles Driffield, spent almost 20 years conducting experiments into photography. The results of their research revolutionised photography, and led to plates and film being issued with 'H&D' numbers denoting correct exposure and speed respectively.

Hurter served as chairman of the Liverpool Section in 1888-1890 (now the Liverpool and North West Regional Group) and was twice elected SCI Vice President.

Leslie Lampitt

Leslie LampittLeslie Herbert Lampitt (1887-1957) held many offices in the Society, including the World Presidency from 1946-1948 and Treasurer. A brewing specialist, Lampitt created what in many ways were the world's first specialist food laboratories. He was instrumental in helping J Lyons and Co to integrate experimental research with product development and analysis, and helped found SCI's Food Group.

Lampitt was a founder member of the Food Group, and the Lampitt Medal was initially funded by subscriptions from staff and suppliers to J Lyons and Co, to honour his contribution to SCI.

Ernest LeSueur

Ernest A LeSueur, born in Ottawa in 1869, made outstanding contributions to early industrial chemistry and to industrial development in Canada.

Before turning 20 he developed a novel electrolytic cell for the manufacture of caustic soda and chlorine from brine, the first of its type to operate successfully. He was the first to conceive of the principle upon which the modern diaphragm electrolytic cell operates.

LeSueur also worked on liquid air and invented a method of enriching the oxygen content, an important contribution to the subsequent development of many industrial processes.

William Lever

William LeverWilliam Hesketh Lever, (1851-1925) first Viscount Leverhulme, was a dynamic and forward-thinking man. He was the driving force behind the expansion of Lever Brothers in 1886, opening a new site allowing production of soap to increase from 20 tons to 800 tons per week. This venture was a key building block of the corporation. In addition to his manufacturing interests he was a pioneer with regards to the welfare of his employees and set aside 169 acres of land for worker housing, which rapidly took shape as the Port Sunlight model village.

Viscount Leverhulme was a Member of the SCI Liverpool Section (now the Liverpool and North West Regional Group) from 1891 until his death in 1925. When awarded the Society's Messel Medal in 1924, the President described him as 'leader of one of the most important industries based on chemical science and, above all, a leader of men and an empire builder in the very widest sense of the term'. His son was SCI President in the late 1930s.

Ivan Levinstein

Ivan LevinsteinIvan Levinstein (1845-1916) was a pioneer in the manufacture of synthetic dyestuffs. He was born in Charlottenburg, Germany, and after carrying out extended research on the preparation of aniline dyestuffs he moved to Manchester. When he was only 19 he set up a small factory manufacturing synthetic dyestuffs, which later became the nucleus of the Dyestuffs Division of ICI and then a part of BASF.

Levinstein was extremely fortunate to have both the prolific inventor's brain, as well as the drive, ambition and vision that goes with being a successful entrepreneur. Remarkably, he was only 19 when he began manufacturing aniline dyestuffs (and other products).

Levinstein also became known in legal circles because of the crucial role he played in developing thinking and legislation on intellectual property. In an important lecture given as recently as 2000, Lord Hoffman quoted Lord Justice Pearson's 1890s judgement: 'I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as I am capable of judging, the process he has used is a process which is much cheaper, much simpler, and which produces less waste, and results in giving you naphthionic acid in a much purer form than it would according to the process mentioned in the patent. I think Mr Levinstein has employed great skill and great perseverance in finding out these processes, but I am sorry to say that the law compels me to inform him that these processes cannot be used in the production of this colouring matter, seeing that the production of this is 'protected by a patent'.

Both Ivan Levinstein and his son Herbert served as SCI World Presidents, in 1901-1903 and 1929-1930 respectively.

Julius Lewkowitsch

Julius LewkowitschDr Julius Lewkowitsch (1857-1913) was born in Germany and was a chemist, entrepreneur and authority in the field of oils and fats. He was a stalwart member of SCI from 1889.

Dr Lewkowitsch published one of the earliest books on oils and fats in 1895: The Chemical Technology and Analysis of Oils, Fats and Waxes, following a series of papers on analysis of oils, fats and soap in the Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry, the predecessor to Chemistry & Industry.

His work remains well regarded, In 2001, Kurt Berger, then 78 and a doyen of the SCI Oils and Fats Group (now Lipids) wrote: 'They are striking in comparison with those of his contemporaries in employing a wider range of quantitative methods and in drawing firm conclusions' (see also, the History of the Lipids Group).

James William McBain

James William McBainJames William McBain (1882-1953) was a Canadian colloid chemist whose main focus of research was in soap solutions, and especially in their use as electrolytic conductors. Born in New Brunswick, McBain studied at the University of Toronto and, after brief spells at Leipzig and Heidelberg, moved to the University of Bristol in 1906. Lord Leverhulme created a new professorship for him there in 1919. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1923, and three years later, went to the USA to become professor at Stanford, California.

Much of his research was devoted to the study of the behaviour of soaps. McBain discovered that the surface phase in simple soap solutions is multi-layered. The apparatus he used for identifying them, the McBain-Bakr spring balance, was used to record 'sorption,' an all-embracing term for the adsorption of gases and vapours by solids.

Sources: Wikipedia and cartage.org.

Rudolph Messel

Rudolph MesselRudolph Messel (1848-1920) was born in Darmstadt, Germany, educated at Friedrichsdorf and later Zurich, Heidelberg and Turbingen. After completing his studies he moved to England and worked his way up in the field of sulphuric acid manufacturing to become one of the most respected technologists of his day.

One of SCI's founding Members, he was an energetic and popular Member of the Society for many years and served in high office on several occasions, twice as World President. Messel remembered SCI in his Will, leaving an exceptionally generous bequest to fund our scholarship programme.

Ludwig Mond

Ludwig MondLudwig Mond was a polymath who was born in Cassel in 1839 and died in London in 1909. By applying creative skills in chemistry, engineering and economics he started several major companies. In Canada there was the Mond Nickel Company. In Britain they included two of the four large enterprises that soon after his death came together to form the giant, ICI.

But Ludwig Mond was a social as much as a technical pioneer. Amongst the first to offer paid holidays and welfare benefits, he was way ahead of his time in regarding human capital as the most important resource. He went out of his way to encourage young people and to promote contact across the boundaries of discipline, sector and nation. He was passionately concerned about the environment. All these strands, and others, came together in his work, with other like- minded people, to establish SCI, founded as The Society of Chemical Industry in 1881.

The Sir Robert Mond Memorial Trust spearheads action on depression, among other activities.

William Perkin

William PerkinSir William Perkin (1838-1907), created the world's first synthetic dye, mauveine, at the age of 18. The discovery revolutionised colour chemistry, gave birth to a major segment of the chemical industry, and opened up new possibilities for a range of industries, most notably, textiles and clothing.

Perkin was born in London and entered the Royal College of Chemistry at 15. At 18, in private experiments attempting to make quinine, he inadvertently created a dye. Just six months later mauve was being used in a London dyehouse. He achieved international acclaim and went on to more discoveries and opened his own factories. He 'retired' from industry to focus on 'pure science' at the age of 36.

Perkin is the subject of Simon Garfield's popular Mauve: How One Man Invented A Colour That Changed The World and features prominently in Tony Travis's The Rainbow Makers: The Origins of the Synthetic Dyestuffs Industry in Western Europe.

The Perkin Medal, which commemorates him, is the highest honour given for outstanding applied chemistry in the US.

Kalev Pugi

Kaleve Pugi (Photo used with permission from the Chess Federation of Canada Photo Archives)Kalev Pugi was born in Estonia in 1925 and migrated to Canada in 1947, worked for DuPont Canada Inc for 32 years, where he eventually became Senior Research Manager. His extraordinary process and development achievements in nylon intermediate manufacturing and the continuous polymerisation of nylon were adopted worldwide by DuPont.

Pugi demonstrated a highly original approach to research and development. As well as his great organisational and scientific skills, he had a special ability to inspire and challenge, and showed an exceptional degree of care and concern for people.

The Kalev Pugi Award created in his honour recognises projects which embody Pugi's own qualities of creativity and determination, good experimental design and project management.

Pugi died in 1984 and left a $10,000 bequest to the Chess Federation of Canada in honour of his other abiding passion. The Kalev Pugi Memorial Fund supports talented junior players.

Arthur Purvis

Arthur Blaikie Purvis (1890-1941) was born in London, and later became an outstanding leader of Canadian industry. He was also a key figure in obtaining US armaments for the Allied forces in the Second World War.

In the First World War, aged 24, he was sent to the US to buy naval supplies, including acetone for use in explosives. Then he moved to Montreal, took over a munitions company, and established himself as a leading businessman. Purvis became President of Canadian Industries, Ltd, a chemical company with a munitions division.

In the Second World War, Purvis, who was Chairman of the British Supply Council in North America, was known as Churchill's chief arms buyer, according to Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain, by Phil Craig. He was unsuccessful in an attempt to buy 50 mothballed destroyers from the then neutral US, as America would not revoke a law denying military supplies to belligerents.

His luck turned in 1940 when he managed to persuade the Americans to declare some supplies surplus to US needs and sell them to Britain and France. Robert Shogan's Hard Bargain: How FDR Twisted Churchill's Arm, Evaded the Law, and Changed the Role of the American Presidency notes that when Purvis was shown a list of possible equipment, he asked for 'the whole damned lot'.

In recognition of his services in the two World Wars, Purvis was appointed a member of King George VI's Privy Council. He did not survive the war, but was killed in a plane crash in 1941 and is buried with the other victims in Ayr. A memorial service was held in Washington Cathedral.

Thanks to Google Answers for this material

William Ramsay

Wiliam RamsayWilliam Ramsay's involvement in the discovery of the noble gases argon, neon, krypton and xenon formed an entirely new group in the periodic table and earned him a Nobel Prize.

Ramsay was born in Glasgow in 1852 and studied there and in Tübingen, Germany, completing a doctorate in organic chemistry and a thesis entitled Investigations in the Toluic and Nitrotoluic Acids. His first academic posts were at the Universities of Glasgow and Bristol, where he conducted research on organic chemistry and gases. He joined SCI at its foundation in 1881. Together with William Shenstone, the Head of Science at Clifton College, he set up and actively promoted the Bristol Scientific Club.

In 1887 Ramsay became Professor of Chemistry at University College London, where he made his most notable discoveries, and his early papers on the oxides of nitrogen were well regarded by his peers. He also became known for his inventive and thorough experimental techniques, especially his methods for determining the molecular weights of substances in the liquid state.

In 1894 Ramsay attended a lecture given by the physicist Lord Rayleigh (John William Strutt). Rayleigh had noticed a discrepancy between the density of nitrogen made by chemical synthesis, and nitrogen isolated from the air by removing its other known components. The two collaborated, and some months later Ramsay told Rayleigh he had isolated a previously unknown heavy component of air, which had no obvious chemical reactivity, which he named argon, after the Greek word for inactive.

While investigating for argon in a uranium-bearing mineral, Ramsay found a new element, helium. Since 1868, helium had been known to exist, but only in the sun! This discovery led him to suggest the existence of a new group of elements in the periodic table. With colleagues he then followed this with the discovery of neon, krypton, and xenon, and in 1910, radon. Ramsay and Rayleigh received the Nobel Prizes in 1904 for Chemistry and Physics respectively, for their discovery of the noble gases, and Ramsay served as SCI president from 1903-4.

Practical applications were soon found. Helium replaced the highly-flammable hydrogen for use in airships (though not the Hindenburg) and argon was used to conserve the filaments in light bulbs. Today, noble gases are used in lighting, welding, space exploration, deep-sea diving, where a helium-oxygen mix is favoured.

Ramsay was less successful with his endorsement of the Industrial and Engineering Trust Ltd, which claimed to have a secret process to extract gold from seawater. Despite the purchase of property along the English coast to implement the process, no gold was ever produced.

From 1887 to 1902 Ramsay and his family lived at 12 Arundel Gardens, London Notting Hill W11. An English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled at this address in February 2011, in celebration of his life and contribution to science. UCL's Ramsay Lecture Theatre, is of course, named after him

Ramsays's Nobel medal was kept for many years in a safe, until it was discovered that it was a fake copy. Ramsay had instructed that the original gold medal was to be melted down, and the gold sold, with the proceeds going to one of his charities.

Source: Wikipedia and the Chemical Heritage Foundation

Eric Rideal

Eric RidealSir Eric Rideal was one of the founders of catalysis and gave his name to the Eley Rideal mechanism. He was also famous for his work at the Colloid Science Laboratory which he set up in Cambridge University in the 1930s.

Born in 1890, he was closely influenced by his father, Samuel, who was a well known consultant chemist of his day. The young Eric got a break of his own when Rideal senior was invited to fix the water supplies in Guayaquil, Ecuador, but as Eric told colleagues, 'he preferred to send sonny boy'.

Rideal was first involved in surface chemistry during the First World War when he worked on catalysts for the Haber process for the production of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen, and for the selective oxidation of carbon monoxide in mixtures of CO and hydrogen. Together with his colleague HS Taylor, he wrote the seminal Catalysis in Theory and Practice, the first of a stream of publications.

After the war he went to the US as visiting professor at the University of Illinois, where he disregarded the smoking ban in place, saying 'no smoking, no Rideal'. He also made sure all the experiments he conducted during lectures used smoke.

On his way back from the US, he shared a cabin with an American writer, Schuyler Brinckerhof Jackson, and the two spent most of the voyage in conversation. Jackson's sister Peggy got fed up with being ignored and asked why she was not introduced. Jackson retorted: 'You don't think he would be interested in you, do you?' They married the next year.

Rideal spent several years at Cambridge and evidently regretted leaving, despite enjoying great success at Kings College London and the Royal Institution.

According to a report in Chemistry & Industry published after his death in 1974, Rideal was always full of ideas, even if only ten per cent were good ones. He was acclaimed as being the most distinguished professor at Kings for 140 years, though it was said his lectures were only useful to the best students as they had little bearing on the exams he set, and he was seldom aware which year he was lecturing to.

Rideal also made some intriguing contributions outside academia. He was knighted for his service on various Ministry of Supply committees during the Second World War. In his work on the Electrical Research Association Committee he supported FT Bacon whose hydrogen–oxygen fuel cell was later used in the Apollo spacecraft.

Henry Roscoe

Sir Henry RoscoeSir Henry Enfield Roscoe was born in London in 1833. His 'proclivity to chemistry' was spotted while a student at University College London, from which he graduated in 1853. He proceeded to Heidelberg the same year, to work with Robert Bunsen, who became a lifelong friend. Shortly after returning to the UK, at the age of 24, Roscoe was appointed professor of chemistry at Owens College, Manchester, where he continued the work he had begun in Germany on the photochemical action of light.

He was to remain at Owens College for 30 years, overseeing the growth of the chemical school from just 15 students to 120 by 1885. As well as his work on photochemistry, in 1867 Roscoe extended his researches to an investigation of vanadium and its compounds, and devised a process for preparing the pure metal, not contaminated by oxygen and nitrogen. He also authored papers on niobium, tungsten, perchloric acid and the solubility of ammonia, as well as writing several popular textbooks, translated into several languages. Roscoe's Letters in Elementary Chemistry passed through several editions in the UK and overseas, while the Treatise on Chemistry, co-authored with his former private assistant Carl Schorlemmer, became a standard text.

Roscoe served as SCI president from 1881 to 1882, and went on to become MP for Manchester South a few years later. He received a knighthood in 1884 and was vice-chancellor of London University from 1896 to 1902. He died in 1915.

And finally, one interesting fact noted on Wikipedia: he was also the uncle of Beatrix Potter.

Richard Seligman

Richard SeligmanRichard Seligman, the founder of APV Group, was a distinguished early member of SCI. Born in London in 1878 to a Bavarian banking family, Seligman studied in London, Heidelberg and Zurich and joined the British Aluminium Company in 1904 as a chief chemist. He joined SCI in the same year, and belonged to the Chemical Engineering, Corrosion, Food and Microbiology groups.

Seligman founded the Aluminium Plant & Vessel Company Limited, in Wandsworth, South London. While the company was to go on to manufacture vessels for milk, in the early days it built them for brewing beer. Seligman invented the plate heat exchanger, which contributed to the introduction of modern methods of milk pasteurisation and led to the 'high temperature short time' method which soon became standard

Eventually APV, as it became known, would become a supplier of process engineering components for use in the dairy, food, brewery, beverage, pharmaceutical, healthcare, chemical, marine, district heating, and other industrial markets.

Richard Seligman had a distinguished career, becoming chairman of the Food Machinery Association, the British Chemical Plant Manufacturers' Association and the Research Fund Committee of the Institute of Brewers. He was also president of the Institute of Metal and received its highest honour, the Platinum Medal, and was the first Gold Medallist of the Society of Dairy Technology. He died aged 94, at his desk.

Marie Stopes

Marie StopesMarie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes was born to Henry and Charlotte (née Brown Carmichael) Stopes in Edinburgh in 15 October 1880. Her father was an architect, from a wealthy brewing family, with an interest in archaeology, while her mother was a Shakespearian scholar and promoter of women's education.

Marie took a science degree at University College London. Achieving a BSc in two years, with double honours – in Botany and Geology - in 1902, then went on to a successful career in palaeontology during which she became the first woman to complete a PhD thesis in Botany (at Munich) which she did within a year. Appointed assistant lecturer in Botany at Manchester University, she became the youngest DSc in Britain in 1905.

Her paleobotanical work included preparing the catalogue of cretaceous flora for the British Museum, going down coalmines in search of fossil plants, studying carboniferous flora in the coal beds of New Brunswick, and publishing researches on the composition of coal. Her nomenclature of the four constitutes of coal (vitrain, clarain, durain and fusain,) became standard usage.

Although Marie Stopes is popularly remembered only for her considerable influence on women's issues, she also did much important work on paleobotany and the geology of coal.

She married twice – the second time to Humphrey V Roe of the aircraft-building family – but retained her maiden name throughout her professional life. She had one surviving child, a son, Harry.

The above is derived from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article by Lesley A Hall, which includes a good portrait

Charles Tennant

Charles Tennant, (1768- 1838) was one of the first pioneers of the chemical industry and was instrumental in encouraging the growth of the textile industry.

Tennant came from modest beginnings as an apprentice weaver and went on to patent various methods of making bleaches. Eventually he set up his own company in Paisley, Scotland, to produce them for the burgeoning textile industry. He developed a highly successful dry bleaching powder from chlorine and slaked lime and built a second factory in Glasgow to produce it which was the largest chemical works in the world at that time.

Charles Tennant was a true entrepreneur who lay the foundations for the diverse and complex map of today's science-based industries. Tennant was a remarkable man whose skills lay not only in chemistry and chemical engineering but also in economics and business. This ability to capitalise on his scientific inquiries brought him enormous personal success and left an enduring legacy for science entrepreneurs in Scotland and far beyond.

Tennant began his career apprenticed as a weaver, hence Robert Burns' reference to him as 'wabster Charlie', but was quick to see the potential of applying science for commercial benefit. He won financial control of his first industrial works at the age of 32. Thirty five years later his St Rollox Works in Glasgow, occupying ten acres and with the tallest chimney (Tennant's Stalk), was the most important chemical works in the world.

Arthur Vogel

Arthur VogelAlthough many have heard of Arthur Vogel and been familiar with his researches, relatively few people actually knew him at the time. He was a very private man in many ways, who successfully compartmentalised his family life and working life, but preferred to shun the limelight. Very few photographs of him survive. He was born in London and attended the Davenant Foundation Grammar School, then located at Whitechapel. Then he studied chemistry at Queen Mary College receiving a BSc with distinction and stayed on to work with Prof J R Partington at Queen Mary Colloge London to gain an MSc for a dissertation on synthesising S2O3 in 1925. After a short while at UCL, he then joined the Research School of Prof J F Thorpe on organic and physical chemistry at Imperial College London, where his output of papers was tremendous. He received the degree of DSc (London) for his researches on surface tension, electrochemistry, organic synthesis (largely on cyclic compounds) and sulphur chemistry.

After a brief sojourn in industry, in January 1930 Vogel became a Lecturer in Chemistry at the then Southampton University College. In January 1932 he was appointed Lecturer-in-Charge at Woolwich Polytechnic, which evolved to Head of the Chemistry Department at the young age of 27. Woolwich Polytechnic by then had become an Institution with Recognised Teachers of the University of London. The degrees were internal to the University of London. At Woolwich he bridged the gap between inorganic, organic and physical chemistry and encouraged his students to reach their full potential. A key feature of his research was preparing pure compounds with his staff, students and technicians to prepare more that 1000 (mostly organic) compounds. Vogel encouraged his students to join the then Chemical Society and the Royal Institute of Chemistry (both precursors of the Royal Society of Chemistry). He was a member of the Council of the Chemical Society for many years until his untimely death in 1966.

He is best known for his textbooks. Well known titles are:

  • Textbook of Qualitative Chemical Analysis (1937 +)
  • Textbook of Quantitative Chemical Analysis (1939 +)
  • Practical Organic Chemistry (1948 +)
  • Elementary Practical Organic Chemistry, Parts I, II and III (1957 +)

These books have been used in laboratories worldwide, often being translated into other languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Russian and Chinese.

The initial writing and the constant revision of these books represented a prodigious effort by one author, whilst all new material incorporated into the books was carefully checked in the laboratory. Over the years the Department developed steadily and became the home of a vigorous Research School.

The welfare of his students was always of major concern to Vogel, and whilst exhorting the able to greater efforts, he took particular care to encourage weaker students. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than to witness the careers of laboratory technicians who subsequently achieved the status of qualified chemists.

To his colleagues, the wide breadth of his interests the probing mind and also his insistence upon high academic standards were a constant challenge. He was certainly intolerant of incompetence and had no hesitation in condemning it. At the same time Vogel could be a very kind man who would quietly help out in various ways to students or staff in difficulties.

Vogel's legacy
Although a quiet man, Vogel was an extensive networker and facilitator, and periodically encouraged his research students in particular to visit other colleges of the University of London. These visits were for using equipment that the Polytechnic did not have and for informal seminars on research topics. Such visits were arranged on a friendly basis at the time, where money did not change hands! Vogel also encouraged students to make use of the extensive resources then available at the University of London Library.

Vogel also developed a Woolwich Polytechnic Chemical Society in from the 1940s onwards. Invited lectures on Monday afternoons, when leading chemists like Linus Pauling, Geoff Wilkinson, Alexander Todd and numerous other Nobel laureates plus other chemists of high international reputations would readily agree to give such talks when requested by Vogel.

Indeed, Vogel applied himself to all tasks with unflagging energy and through his wisdom and foresight the Chemistry Department at Woolwich Polytechnic (a forerunner of what was to become Thames Polytechnic and the University of Greenwich) became the home of a vigorous Research School, and a great chemistry tradition continues on the new campus. His output of research publications was remarkable, not only for their quantity, but also for their breadth of interest.

His rich legacy has survived, and many of his textbooks continue to be revised and updated with the support of his colleagues at the polytechnic.

At the conclusion of the lecture, the current head of Greenwich School of Science, Professor Snowden, assured the audience that they would seek to have a plaque placed at the new Medway campus labs. It will be similar to that in the old polytechnic labs in Woolwich, and will commemorate the contribution of Vogel to chemistry and the support and work he did for the polytechnic.

Fred Parrett, SCI London Regional Group Committee, and others.

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