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Arthur McDougall Duckham

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Sir Arthur McDougall Duckham GBE, KCB (1879-1932) was one of the founders of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, and its first President.

1879 July 8th. Born in Blackheath the son of Frederic Eliot Duckham

He became a trainee gas engineer, while also taking evening classes at King's College, London, and was appointed assistant superintendent of a London gasworks.

Along with Harold Woodall he formed Woodall-Duckham Construction Co which developed the continuous vertical retort for manufacturing gas from coal.

He married Maud Peppercorn, daughter of Arthur Douglas Peppercorn and they had three children.

During the First World War he was involved in the supply of coal-derived chemicals for use in the manufacture of explosives, becoming Deputy Controller of Munitions Supply in 1915. He performed a number of other executive and advisor roles, notably Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Ministry of Munitions, which resulted in the him being knighted with the Order of the Bath (KCB). He also received the Légion d'honneur (Cross of Officer).

After the war his business flourished, expanding into other areas of chemical engineering. He joined the Institution of Civil Engineers (which then included all non-military engineers) in 1918, but chaired the committee which created the Institution of Chemical Engineers, and became its first President.

In 1928 he led a British trade mission to Australia, and following this received a further knighthood, GBE.

He died 14 February 1932 at Ashtead, Surrey


1932 Obituary [1]

Sir ARTHUR MCDOUGALL DUCKHAM, G.B.E., K.C.B., was well known on account of his investigations and experiments in connexion with the improvement of existing methods of gas manufacture and for his knowledge and experience of the carbonization and treatment of coal.

He was the son of the late Mr. F. E. Duckham, M.I.Mech.E., general manager and engineer of the Millwall Dock Company, and was educated at the Blackheath Proprietary School.

He served his apprenticeship under the late Sir George Livesey at the South Metropolitan Gas Company's works at Old Kent Road. During this period he concentrated his attention upon carbonization practice and furnace design. He was for two years assistant superintendent at his company's works, until in 1899 he was appointed assistant engineer to the Bournemouth Gas and Water Company under Mr. Harold W. Woodall.

Subsequently he resigned this appointment in order to establish the firm of Woodall and Duckham. In conjunction with Mr. Woodall an elaborate system for the continuous carbonization of coal by means of the vertical retort was introduced, and he designed the Poole Gas Works and carried out the construction of a water pumping station at Wimborne.

In 1906 the first of several companies in which he was interested was formed in connexion with carbonization and the manufacture of kilns and ovens.

During the War Mr. Duckham was appointed to the Panel of Experts in the Munitions Department. He thereafter became in succession Deputy Controller of Munitions Department and Deputy Director-General of Munitions Supply, and in 1917 he was created a K.C.B. Later he was appointed chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Munitions, Member of Council in charge of aeronautical supplies, mechanical warfare, and machine-tools, and towards the end of the War was made a member of the Air Council, Director-General of Aircraft Production, and chairman of the War Cabinet Priority Sub-Committee. During the time he was in charge of the production of small arms ammunition he superintended the design of the Government brass rolling mills at Southampton and a large explosive factory for the Aetra Explosives Company of New York. He also devised a new form of muffle for annealing.

In 1919 Sir Arthur was appointed a member of the Sankey Coal Commission and submitted on his own account a minority report. In response to a request by the Commonwealth Government of Australia for an inquiry into the trade opportunities of that country, he was invited by the British Government to act as chairman on a commission.

On completion of the inquiry in 1929 he was created a G.B.E.

At the time of his death Sir Arthur was Deputy-President of the Federation of British Industries, and was this year to have become President. He was for some time chairman of the Advisory Committee appointed under the Development (Loan Guarantees and Grants) Act of 1929. Sir Arthur was elected a Member of the Institution in 1924 and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was the first President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 1923.

He was born in 1879, and his death occurred on 14th February 1932.


1932 Obituary [2]

Sir ARTHUR MCDOUGALL DUCKHAM, G.B.E., K.C.B., died on February 14, 1932, at the age of fifty-one.

Born on July 8, 1879, he was educated at Blackheath Preparatory School and at King's College, London. He was apprenticed to Sir George Livesey for three years, and when twenty years old became assistant superintendent at the Old Kent Road works of the South Metropolitan Gas Co.

Two years later he took a post as assistant engineer to the Bournemouth Gas and Water Co. under Mr. H. W. Woodhall, and thus commenced a life-long association. The outcome of their joint investigations was the Woodhall-Duckham retort for the continuous carbonisation of coal; in 1906, the first of the Woodhall-Duckham companies was established.

In 1915, Sir Arthur was appointed to the Panel of Experts in the Munitions Department; later he held successively the positions of Deputy Controller of the Munitions Department, Deputy Director-General in charge of machine-guns and rifles, Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Ministry of Munitions, and other posts under Government.

In 1919, Sir Arthur was appointed to represent other industries on the Coal Commission presided over by Lord Sankey, and presented a minority report of which he was the sole signatory. In 1928 he headed an economic commission to Australia which went, at the invitation of the Commonwealth, to investigate the promotion of Empire trade and the development of vacant lands.

Sir Arthur was made a Knight Commander of the Bath in 1917, and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1929. He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1919.

He was the first President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (in 1923), and also occupied the Presidential Chair of the Society of British Gas Industries and of the British Export Society. He was Chairman of a committee set up by the Government to advise on applications from public utility concerns for assistance under the Development (Loan, Guarantees and Grants) Act, 1929. He was Deputy President of the Federation of British Industries.

He joined the Iron and Steel Institute in 1919.


1932 Obituary[3]

"THE LATE SIR ARTHUR DUCKHAM.

The death of Sir Arthur McDougall Duckham, which occurred on Sunday, February 14, at the early age of fifty-one deprives industry generally, and especially that branch which is concerned with the carbonisation and other treatment of coal, of an energetic and farsighted leader, who in these difficult times is likely to be sorely missed.

Arthur Duckham was born on July 8, 1879, and received his early education at the Blackheath Preparatory School, and at King’s College, London. He then served a three years apprenticeship under Sir George Livesey, and at the age of twenty was appointed an assistant superintendent on the staff of the South Metropolitan Gas Co at their Old Kent road works. After acting for two years in this position he obtained the post of assistant engineer to the Bournemouth Gas and Water Co under Mr. H. W. Woodhall with whom he thus established a livelong association, and with whom he worked to improve existing methods of gas manufacture. The result of these investigations was the well-known Woodhall-Duckham retort for the continuous carbonisation of coal, which is now used for treating about half the coal at present handled in British gas works. During this time he was also responsible with Mr. Woodhall for the design of the Poole gas works and for the construction of a water pumping station at Wimbome. In 1906, the success of the retort led to the establishment of the first of the Woodhall-Duckham companies which, in addition to carbonisation questions, are now concerned with the manufacture of kilns and ovens. Although the developments with which Duckham was concerned involved much experimental work at high temperatures and was not unattended by disappointments, success early was achieved, and the name of Duckham began to be connected in the industry with efficiency in works construction.

A not unnatural outcome of his reputation was Duckham’s appointment in 1915 to the Panel of Experts in the Munitions Department, an appointment which began his connection, in an advisory capacity, with many governmental excursions into industrial questions. Thereafter, he became in succession, Deputy Controller of the Munitions Department, Deputy Director-General in charge of machine guns and rifles, Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Minister of Munitions, member of the Council of the Ministry in charge of aeronautical supplies, mechanical warfare and machine tools, Director-General of Aircraft Productions, member of the Air Council and chairman of the War Cabinet Priority Sub-Committee. During the time he was in charge of the production of small arms ammunition, he superintended the design of the Government brass rolling mills at Southampton, and devised a new form of muffle for annealing. He also designed a large explosives factory for the Aetra Explosives Company of New York.

In 1919, Duckham was appointed one of the representatives of other industries on the Coal Commission presided over by Lord (then Lord Justice) Sankey, and submitted a minority report, signed only by himself, in which, while favouring State ownership of mineral rights, he objected to the nationalisation of the mines as likely to lead to calamity. He also put forward a scheme for the amalgamation of colliery interests in the several districts in the form of statutory companies. In 1928, he was placed at the head of an economic mission to Australia in response to a request from the Commonwealth for a party of leading industrialists to consider the promotion of Empire trade and the development of the vacant lands. The resulting report criticised the growth of foreign, as opposed to British, trade in that country.

Sir Arthur was made a Knight Commander of the Bath in 1917, and became a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1929. He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1919 and, after acting as chairman of the promotion Committee, became first president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 1923. He had also been president of the Society of British Gas Industries, and of the British Export Society, besides being chairman of the committee set up by the Government to advise on applications from public utility undertakings for assistance under Part I of the Development (Loan Guarantees and Grants) Act, 1929. A little more than a year ago he was elected deputy president of the Federation of British Industries with a view to his becoming president during 1932."


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