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«James Francis Donnelly Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. University of Leeds, School of Education. ...»

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Chemical Education and the Chemical Industry in England

from the Mid—Nineteenth to the Early Twentieth Century

James Francis Donnelly

Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of


University of Leeds, School of Education. November, 1987.


The thesis examines the relationship between formal education and

the chemical industry from about 1850 to about 1920. It first surveys

relevant literature and discusses historiographical and definitional matters. It then sketches aspects of the relationship between science, education and technique during the early nineteenth century.

It moves on to explore the representation of that relationship during the period of the thesis proper. It argues that this was dominated by a view articulated largely by academic chemists from the mid-century.

Industrial relevance was exploited as a means of promoting research and teaching. This, rather than an 'objective' analysis, influenced the view which was promoted. Alternative, more directly technical, approaches were envisaged by some industrialists. At the turn of the century a complex negotiation was in progress, focusing on the place of technological disciplines in academe.

Attempts to establish chemical technology curricula in the nineteenth century are surveyed. Reasons are suggested for their failure, particularly the difficulties in publicly transmitting and creating commercially sensitive knowledge and the pressures of curricular and institutional hierarchies. By contrast curricula in 'pure' chemistry were numerically successful. The thesis examines the recruitment of chemistry students by the industrial and educational sectors. It surveys the occupations of a sample of students from a range of English institutions. It concludes that industrial recruitment had a greater role than has been suggested by some scholars. The recruitment and employment of trained men in a number of chemical firms is surveyed, and it is concluded that their main role was in routine analysis. Expansion of this activity was slow, involving vertical routes into managerial positions rather than functional specialization and bureaucracies. A class of technicallytrained routine analysts was created. The growth of chemical engineering as academic field and occupation is examined. The roles of academics and industrialists in conceptualizing the field around 'unit operations' are discussed. An account is given of the emergence of the Institution of Chemical Engineers.

Acknowledgements My supervisor, Professor David Layton, has provided much support, guidance and encouragement, as well as demonstrating a good deal of patience, during the preparation of this thesis.

I am grateful to the School of Education at the University of Leeds for allowing me the use of word-processing facilities. Several libraries and archives have provided me with hospitality. I particularly wish to thank: Mrs. C. Budden of the Record Office at University College, London; Mrs. J. Pingree of the Archives Department at Imperial College, London; Mr. K. KcGee of ICI Organics Division, Blackley, Manchester; Mr. James McGrath of the Archives Department at the University of Strathclyde; the staff at the Rugby office of the Institution of Chemical Engineers; and Mr. A.E. Kilby at the Society of Chemical Industry. The staff of the Edward Boyle and Brotherton Libraries at the University of Leeds demonstrated unfailing courtesy and efficiency.

John and Kath Seed have contributed materially to the production of this thesis. John Seed has attempted, at many times and places, to convince me that history could be demystified.

–  –  –

BAAS British Association for the Advancement of Science BDC British Dyestuff Corporation BDL British Dyes Ltd.

BM Brunner, Mond & Co. Ltd.

CGCI City and Guilds Central Institution C&I Chemistry and Industry CCRO Cheshire County Record Office CN Chemical News CR Chemical Review CS Chemical Society CTJ Chemical Trade Journal DCI Dickinson Card Index (at Cheshire County Record Office) DSA Department of Science and Art DSIR Department of Scientific and Industrial Research IC Institute of Chemistry ICI Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd.

ICLA Imperial College, London Archives JCS Journal of the Chemical Society JSA Journal of the Society of Arts (J)PIC (Journal _and) Proceedings of the Institute of Chemistry JSCI Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry LCC London County Council MBMB Managing Directors' Minute Books (Brunner, Mond) NAPT(S)E National Association for the Promotion of Technical (and Secondary) Education NST Natural Science Tripos PP Parliamentary Papers RCS Royal College of Science Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction RCSI RCTI Royal Commission on Technical Instruction SCI Society of Chemical Industry Select Committee on Scientific Instruction SCSI United Alkali Co. Ltd.

UAC University College, London UCL UGC University Grants Committee UMIST University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology


–  –  –

In February 1915 the House of Commons debated the promotion by the Government of a dyestuffs firm which was to address the crisis brought about by the absence of German dyes ("piece-meal plastic socialise, as one member described it). During the debate Alfred Mond, son of the chemical manufacturer Ludwig Mond, told the House, apparently without intending irony: "(y)ou can pick out from the universities today, if you like to pay for it, very able men, and there is no longer any necessity to go to Germany for chemists in order to run a chemical works in Britain". Philip Magnus argued that German prowess in industrial chemistry was "in no way due to any superiority...as regards education": that country's success stemmed rather from " organisation (in) military, municipal, scientific and industrial work". Walter Runciman, President of the Board of Trade, remarked "...(i)t is the business of the Government, as in all technical education, to increase the amount of training and instruction for the production of a larger number of chemists of the second grade".1 Within this debate on public intervention in industry, speakers returned frequently to a governmental role which was evidently much less controversial: the production of manpower for private industry.

Their comments signal explicitly some of the themes with which this thesis will be concerned: the role of foreign chemists; the orientation towards collective rather than individual activity; and the notion of a hierarchy among institutions and the students which they produced.

However, some of the underpinning messages are equally significant, notably Runciman's identification of technical education with the production of chemists (though of the "second grade") and Mond's vision of university chemists running chemical works. To what extent, it might be asked, was a chemical training "technical", or a university chemist competent to run chemical works? Such questions reflect the fact that for chemistry, and for most of the physical sciences during the period with which this thesis is concerned, the underpinning assumption of a more or less direct industrial relevance was never far

-2from the surface. The main theme of the thesis derives from this

situation. It is concerned with the emergence of chemical components of the curriculum of higher and technical education within the tension between academic independence and industrial relevance.

Accounts of the relations between education and industry in Britain have tended to focus on the foresight of academics and a small number of industrialists, the 'failures' of government and industry to heed their warnings and the absence of educational provision and industrial demand. Those with a particular interest in this field have, in some cases, seen lack of scientific and technological education as a key factor influencing British economic performance.

Unfortunately a feature of much of this work is the absence of an adequate investigation of the cognitive, ideological and institutional framework within which the relations between education and industry in Britain were constructed. Often this has been coupled with a tendency to take at face value the public statements of interested contemporaries. Indeed some modern accounts constitute little more

than prolonged laments on putative British poor economic performance:2

Some recent work has begun to fill this gap, and to re-examine the basis of Cardwell's early synoptic account. 3 Bud and Roberts have undertaken detailed explorations of the key institutions of the midcentury!' The 'official' history of the Royal Institute of Chemistry

was a major contribution to the social history of British chemistry:5

MacLeod and Moseley, and other scholars, have investigated the significance of the Natural Science Tripos. 8 Sanderson, though covering a very wide front, has provided a detailed account of relations between the universities and industry. 7 The industrial perspective is less well-served. Work such as that of Reader on the history of ICI has had a largely commercial and financial orientation.

By contrast that of Chandler on the USA and Kocka on Germany has a wider reference.8 The decades around the turn of the century are of central interest for the issues under discussion here. At this time in both education and industry new, if embryonic, institutional forms had replaced those of the early nineteenth century. A situation was being created which was at least recognizable in terms of the categories of a modern industrial society. The present study is an attempt to contribute to

-3the process of gaining a better-grounded understanding of the historical relationship between academic activity and the so-called 'science-based' industries during this period. The chemical field was chosen because chemistry was the contemporary academic domain in which the greatest claims were made for industrial relevance in the nineteenth century. Until the emergence of the electrical industries at the close of the nineteenth century these claims were, at least relative to other disciplines, well-founded. It was also the chemical sector in which some of the earliest use was made of academically trained men, and which therefore seemed likely to have developed some of the earliest examples of bureaucracies and functional specialism involving such men.

The present account does not cover all possible aspects of the field uniformly. It has focused particularly on the definition and institutionalization of curricula, and on the recruitment and role of trained personnel. It gives relatively little attention to technique itself: only so much as was thought necessary to make sense of the areas just referred to. In these circumstances it may be appropriate to give a brief statement of the author's underpinning view on relevant historiograpical matters. Examination of the relations between science and technique is generating a substantial literature, though relatively little of it has focused on the chemical industry. 9 It may be that this is a consequence of the fact that the reality of industrial practice and its relations to academic science are particularly difficult to establish in the chemical field. Much of the work which has been done needed to confront the paradigm of technique (technology) as 'applied science' (in the sense of 'application of "pure" science').

In recent years new conceptualizations have been developed and explored. The modes of interaction between science and technique are seen as multifaceted, and it has become clear that these relations cannot be defined merely at the cognitive level. Each is a social activity. There are social influences on the cognitive development of each. The relations of the two activities (even the question of when they can be separately conceptualized) depend on the institutional framework in play. The present study has been based on the working assumption that the main arenas involved (academic science, industrial technique and academic technology) have no necessary cognitive

-4relations. Such relations are open to empirical investigation.

Moreover any findings will apply only within a specific period and for a specific industrial and technological field.

Returning to the thesis itself, an attempt has been made to undertake a systematic and representative study of curricular development and employment. Nevertheless it has been necessary to be very selective. Information on firms and educational activity which were judged similar to those discussed here have not been utilized, and in a number of cases these firms have not been fully investigated. A variety of constraints made it necessary to take decisions about when such an exploration would have yielded nothing qualitatively new. The dangers of this are obvious. Nevertheless it is hoped that the material which has been used is representative. The limitations which have been imposed will be indicated in a moment. More important has been the need to limit the study to certain industrial and academic domains.

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