My employers encouraged me to publish articles in their field and I was soon invited to join the International Fertilizer Society and to present formal papers to its members. I became a specialist in fluid fertilizer technology and, as such, was invited to address conferences both in the United Kingdom and in the United States. I also represented the interests of the fertilizer industry on BSI and ISO Committees where I became involved in drafting new standards. I was also invited by a US publisher to edit and contribute to a textbook on Fluid Fertilizer Science and Technology, which was published in 1991.
Opportunities after retirement
When I retired I offered my services to the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) who were seeking lecturers to address members of local organisations, during their routine meetings, about the importance of the chemical industry to everyone using chemicals on a regular basis.
The CIA established a panel of lecturers with a coordinator who arranged for each member of the panel to speak to local societies and clubs about specific aspects of the chemical industry. This went on for a number of years but although the lecturers were not paid, their travelling expenses were. For the coordinator, it must have been almost a full time job. The upshot was an end to the scheme.
I think its demise was a great pity as it did provide an interface for actual chemists and the general public which was so desirable. I also developed a more general series of lectures on a range of topics featuring chemistry throughout history and its influence on so many other aspects of our lives.
Chemicals through the ages
My titles include Chemicals Through the Ages, which uses a selection of early illustrations of processes which were commonplace in self-sufficient communities, not only growing a range of crops for food and other purposes, but also for generating leather and cloth. They would harvest bark to yield tannin and extract dyes from a range of plants to dye their linen and woollen cloth. They also made use of naturally occurring mordants like alum, and developed a bleaching process involving the exposure of cloth, soaked in an aqueous extract of alkali from wood ash, to strong sunlight.
The value of returning composted vegetation to the soil had been appreciated for several centuries but the advent of superphosphate in the mid nineteenth century led to the greater understanding of the role of plant nutrients and the emergence of chemical fertilizers as essential components for successful agriculture. I describe this in my lecture, Fertilizers in Victorian England. I also make reference to fertilizers in my lecture on Chemistry and Everyday Living, which concentrates on the wide range of chemicals we use in our homes on a daily basis. I include soap, specialist detergents, metal polish, toothpaste, paint, medicine, disinfectants, glue, man-made fibres, etc.
Shields and flags
My lecture Heraldry inspired by Science and Technology, examines the nature of the devices that are reproduced on shields and flags. They are not restricted to beasts like lions: many inanimate objects like keys, tools, weapons, crosses and various geometric shapes are permitted. In science not only do we use specialist apparatus like retorts, condensers, desiccators etc., but we also use structural formulae. Organic chemistry provides a wonderful source of images which are unique. The benzene ring is an obvious candidate as an heraldic charge, and I have used the outline of its derivative, hexamethylbenzene, as an approved heraldic badge. I have also used a chain of tetrahedra (representing polyphosphates) around the neck of a bittern in my heraldic crest.
I have been lecturing on these topics for about 25 years. It keeps my mind active and I enjoy the challenge. My audience tell me they like what I say and they ask me to come again. I seem to be lecturing every two or three weeks but not always on chemistry. Various aspects of historical research and surname studies are also part of my range of topics.
Readers might be interested to know that when I was 70, I registered for an MPhil and wrote a thesis on The History of Chafer’s, a chemical company established in Doncaster over 100 years ago. This has since been published.