Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 130,253 pages of information and 205,637 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

William Chandler Roberts-Austen

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search
1901.

Sir William Chandler Roberts-Austen (1843-1902) C.B., F.R.S.

William Chandler Roberts later became Sir William Roberts-Austen

1900 - 1901 President of the Iron and Steel Institute.


1902 Obituary [1]

Sir WILLIAM CHANDLER ROBERTS-AUSTEN, H.C.B., was born in London on 3rd March 1843.

At the age of eighteen he entered the School of Mines, with the idea of becoming a mining engineer; but upon obtaining the associateship of the school, the late Professor Graham, then Master of the Mint, secured his services; and on the death of Professor Graham in 1869 he was appointed assayer, being promoted in 1882 to the position of Queen's Assay-Master. All the scientific, as distinguished from the mechanical, operations of coinage, were ultimately placed in his charge, and, up to the time of his death, he had been responsible for the standard fineness of about one hundred and thirty millions of gold coin.

In 1880 he succeeded Dr. Percy as Professor of Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, while still occupying his post at the Mint; and from that time dates the beginning of his long series of experimental research on the atomic theory of metals, and of the influence of traces of impurities on the whole mass.

In 1889 the Alloys Research Committee of this Institution was appointed, and he acted as Reporter to it, practically carrying out all the tests. This Committee has made five Reports, and the sixth and final one was in draft fortes before his death.

The First Report dealt with silver and gold and their impurities; and the cooling- curve system in connection with alloys was evolved, which has been ss advantageously developed. In the Second Report the effects of arsenic, antimony, and bismuth on copper were shown, and the thermal behaviour of chromium steel was treated. The freezing points of metals were discussed in the Third Report, and data on the effects of alloying aluminium with iron, copper, and nickel were given. The Fourth Report dealt with brasses, coppers, diffusion of metals, and the relation between the melting points of alloys and the atomic volumes of their constituent metals. In the Fifth Report various alloys were discussed, and the treatment of carburised iron and low carbon rail-steel were dealt with. On the completion of the Sixth and final Report, which Sir William, unfortunately, did not live to present to the Institution, the work of this Committee will be proceeded with at the National Physical Laboratory. For the purpose of recording temperatures automatically he brought into use by means of photography his automatic recording pyrometer. A description of this instrument was given in Papers read before the Iron and Steel Institute in 1891, 1892, and 1893, as well as before this Institution.

Alloys formed the topic of his lecture to the British Association at their Newcastle Meeting in 1889, dealing with the hardening and tempering of steel, which was the means of beginning that long association with M. Osmond, the French metallurgist.

On several Government Committees be rendered service. In 1893 he was chairman of a committee appointed to enquire into the laboratory arrangements of the Customs and Inland Revenue Departments; and in the same year he served on a committee appointed to consider the best means of utilising for metallurgical purposes the water-power available on the completion of the Periyar Water Works in India.

In 1896 be served on a Board of Trade Committee on the cause of the deterioration of steel rails, in connection with which he conducted an elaborate research, and furnished a report of great industrial importance. He was also a member of the Explosives Committee of the War Office from the time of its formation. He was elected an Honorary Member of this Institution in 1897, in recognition of his valuable work on the Alloys Research Committee, and was President of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1899-1900; be was also elected an Honorary Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1901.

He was one of the founders of the Physical Society of Loudon, of which he was for some time secretary, and afterwards a vice-president; and acted as an honorary secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1875 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, and served on the Council. He was also a vice-president of the Chemical Society and of the Society of Arts.

In 1890 he was created a Companion of the Bath, and Witt, promoted to be a Knight Commander in 1899; the University of Durham conferred the title of D.C.L. in 1897, and he was a Doctor of Science of Victoria University, Manchester. He had served on the Government Commission in connection with the Exhibitions of Paris in 1889, and in Chicago. He was a Knight of the Legion of Honour, and in 1893 lie was elected a member of the Athemetun Club for distinguished eminence in science.

His death took place at the Royal Mint, London, on 22nd November 1902, at the age of fifty-nine.


1902 Obituary [2]

SIR WILLIAM CHANDLER ROBERTS-AUSTEN, K.C.B., died at his official residence at the Royal Mint on November 22, 1902, at the age of fifty-nine. Born in 1843, the son of Mr. George Roberts, he was of Welsh descent on his father's side, while his mother belonged to the old Kentish family of Chandler, which intermarried with the Hulses and Austens. Mr. Roberts - as he was then named - entered the Royal School of Mines in 1861 with a view to following the profession of a mining engineer. After obtaining the associateship of the school, however, he joined the late Professor Graham, then Master of the Mint, and was associated with him in a number of remarkable re- searches. Professor Graham died in 1869, and Mr. Roberts succeeded to one of the appointments which he had held—namely, that of Assayer to the Mint. Thirteen years later he was entrusted with all the duties of the Queen's Assay-Master. It was some few years after this that at the request of his uncle, the late Major Austen, of Haffenden and Camborne, in Kent, Mr. Roberts obtained royal licence to take the name and arms of Austen. On the retirement of the late Dr. Percy in 1880, Mr. Roberts was appointed to the Chair of Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, a post which he continued to hold up to the time of his death, in addition to his office at the Mint. In the latter position he had, up to the time of his deaths, been responsible for the standard fineness of something like one hundred and thirty millions of gold coin, the accuracy of which has been truly remarkable. He was recognised as the authority on all technical operations connected with coinage, not only in Europe, but throughout the world. On the death of Mr. Horace Seymour in June 1902, Sir William Roberts-Austen was appointed to fill the office of Deputy Master of the Mint until his resignation, which he had intended should take effect in the spring of 1903. He thus, at one time or other, filled every office to which a man of his order could aspire.

The discharge of the duties of his two offices, laborious as they were, did not prevent his carrying on a long series of metallurgical researches, of which the most elaborate dealt with the structure of alloys. The Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers records that he published some two dozen papers, for the most part singly, but occasionally in collaboration with Sir Norman Lockyer, Mr. F. Osmond, or Dr. Alder Wright. They deal with the spectroscopic characters of alloys, the structure of metals, the connection between the properties of metals and the periodic law, and the occlusion of hydrogen by palladium and by electro-deposited iron. In 1889 the Alloys Research Committee of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was appointed. Roberts-Austen acted as reporter to the Committee, and practically carried out all the tests; and no one who heard him in successive meetings expounding the difficult problems associated with the chemistry and microstructure of metals could fail to appreciate his enthusiasm and ability. This Committee has made five reports, and a final report has, it is believed, been left in draft form.

As a lecturer he possessed unusual gifts. His researches on the diffusion of solid metals formed the subject of his Bakerian lecture to the Royal Society in 1896. His lectures to the Royal Institution, to the Society of Arts, and to the British Association were much appreciated. His last public lecture was the James Forrest lecture at the Institution of Civil Engineers on April 23, 1902. He had great sympathy with artistic work, and read papers before the Society of Arts on alloys in art metal work. He was the author of an "Introduction to the Study of Metallurgy" (London, 1st edition 1891, 3rd edition 1894, 4th edition 1897, 5th edition 1902), which has been characterised as a masterly guide to a knowledge of the principles on which the art is based.

Roberts-Austen rendered service on several Government committees. In 1893 he was chosen to act as chairman of a committee appointed to inquire into the laboratory arrangements of the Customs and Inland Revenue Departments. In the same year he served on a committee, appointed by the Secretary of State for India, to consider the best means of utilising for metallurgical purposes the water-power available on the completion of the Periyar waterworks.

In 1896 he was a member of the Board of Trade Committee appointed to consider the cause of the deterioration of steel rails in ordinary use. In connection with the committee, he conducted an elaborate research, and furnished a report of great industrial importance. In 1897 he was directed to serve on a committee appointed to consider the desirability of establishing a National Physical Laboratory; and in 1900 was chosen as a member of the Explosives Committee, part of the work of which was to report on the most suitable steel for ordnance work. He was member of the Executive Committee of the Inventions Exhibition in 1885, of the Council of the British Section of the Paris Exhibition in 1889, of the Royal Commission for the Chicago Exhibition in 1893, and of the International Jury for the Paris Exhibition of 1900.

Many honours, the highest his profession could pay, fell to his lot. He was elected an honorary member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1897, of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1901, of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, and of the Societe des Ingenieurs Civils de France. He was one of the founders of the Physical Society of London, of which he was for some time secretary, and afterwards a vice-president, and was an honorary secretary of the l3ritish Association for the Advancement of Science. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society as early as 1875, and served on the Council in 1890-1892. He had served as vice-president of the Chemical Society and of the Society of Arts. He was made a C.B. in 1890, and a K.C.B. is 1899, a D.C.L. of Durham University in 1897, and a D.Sc. of Victoria University, Manchester, a year or two later. He was created a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1889, and was elected in 1893 a member of the Athenaeum Club, "for distinguished eminence in science." He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1881, a member of Council in 1890,a vice-president in 1897, and president in 1898.

The papers communicated by him to the Institute were the following:— The electro-deposition of iron, in 1887; the carburisation of iron by the diamond, in 1890; automatic methods of observation on the use of the Le Chatelier pyrometer, in 1891; an appliance for autographically recording the temperature of furnaces, in 1892; the recording pyrometer, in 1893; the rate of diffusion of carbon in iron, in 1896; and the action of the projectile and of the explosives on the tubes of steel guns, in 1898. Indeed, lie rendered to the Iron and Steel Institute conspicuous service. He made a notable triumph in his address on the action of projectiles and of explosives on gun tubes, delivered at the Stockholm meeting, when the King of Sweden was present. His presidential addresses were masterpieces of literary merit; that at the spring meeting of 1899 was a scholarly review of the work of his predecessors; while at the Paris meeting in 1900 he similarly eulogised the work of the French scientists. It was during his presidency, and perhaps more than a coincidence, that Mr. Andrew Carnegie offered scholarships of research to the Institute, and it was from his hands that the Bessemer medal was graciously accepted by Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. The President's reception at the Royal Mint to the members of the Institute, and the dinner given by him to the Council during the Paris meeting, were amongst the pleasantest of the social functions connected with the work of the Institute.

He was buried at Canterbury on November 27. A memorial service was held the same day in the Chapel Royal of the Tower of London, and was attended by numerous friends and by representatives of the Iron and Steel Institute, and of the other societies with which he was connected. A memorial service was also held at the beautifully decorated mission church which he had erected near his house at Chilworth in Surrey, in which, as diocesan reader, he was wont to minister nearly every Sunday.


1902 Obituary[3][4]

"...circle will hear with regret that Sir William Roberts-Austen died at the Mint on Saturday, in his sixtieth year. He was the son of George and Maria Roberts, and at the time of his death filled the post of chemist and assayer to the Royal Mint. He entered the Royal School of Mines in 1861, and after obtaining an associateship he joined the late Professor Graham, then Master of the Mint, and from that time to the day of his death he was connected with the Mint. He has added a good deal to the world's metallurgical knowledge; his researches in the interpenetration of metals, and the phenomena of recalescence being particularly noteworthy. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society. In addition to his services on departmental and other committees, he was past-president of the Iron and Steel Institute, hon. general secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, vice-president of the Chemical Society, the Physical Society-of which he was one of the founders - and the Society of Arts. He served on the British Executive Council..."More


1903 Obituary [5]

. . . . one of the really distinguished and enthusiastic notaries of metallurgical science . . . [more]


1902 Obituary [6]



See Also

Loading...

Sources of Information

  1. 1902 Institution of Mechanical Engineers: Obituaries
  2. 1902 Iron and Steel Institute: Obituaries
  3. The Engineer 1902/11/28, p514.
  4. The Engineer 1902 Jul-Dec: Index: Miscellaneous
  5. 1903 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries
  6. Engineering 1902 Jul-Dec: Index: General Index