First beginnings

Image: Henry Roscoe

By Ian Shepherd and Cath O'Driscoll

On 21 November 1879, Lancashire chemist John Hargreaves canvassed a meeting of chemists and managers in Widnes, St Helens and Runcorn to consider the formation of a chemical society.

Modelled on the successful Tyne Chemical Society already operating in Newcastle, the newly proposed South Lancashire Chemical Society held its first meeting on 29 January 1880 in Liverpool, with the eminent industrial chemist and soda manufacturer Ludwig Mond presiding.

But it was not to retain its name for very long. At only the second meeting of the new society, in April that same year, it was proposed that the Society should not be confined to Lancashire, and that it should be called 'the Society of Chemical Engineers’.

As history shows, however, that name did not last long either. The title 'the Society of Chemical Industry’ was finally settled upon at a meeting in London on 4 April 1881, as being 'more inclusive'. Held at the offices of the Chemical Society, now the Royal Society of Chemistry, in Burlington House, this meeting was presided over by Henry Roscoe (pictured), appointed first president of SCI, and attended by Eustace Carey, Ludwig Mond, FA Abel, Lowthian Bell, William H Perkin, Walter Weldon, E Rider Cook, Thomas Tyrer and George E Davis. All were later to serve as SCI presidents, except Davis who became the first general secretary.

Members who changed the world

The history of SCI has been largely influenced by the inventors and scientists who came together and founded the Society back in 1881. More information about those notable scientists and inventors can be found here.