1917 - 19 July 2009
Professor S Russell Tailby. BSc, PhD, C.Chem, FRSC CEng, SFInstE, FIChemE, Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Surrey.
Professor Tailby died on 19th July 2009 at his home in Horsham aged 92. Educated at the Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School, Tailby took his first degree in Chemistry and then started his PhD at University College London in 1938. His studies were interrupted by the war but his chemistry skills meant that his application to join the Navy was rejected in favour of working in the ICI Explosives factory in Scotland. After work in the factory he would take his turn with the 8th Ayrshire Home Guard where he was often engaged in tackling fires caused by bombing at the explosives factory where he worked during the day. He recalled one raid where it was said the blaze was fierce enough for people to read a newspaper two miles away. He related those Home Guard experiences in a TV program broadcast a few years ago.
Whilst in Scotland, he married Jean in 1945, a marriage which was to last over 60 years.
In between work in the factory and the Home Guard, he found time to study Chemical Engineering at what is now Strathclyde University under Dr Rumford, passing the AMIChemE exam in 1944. He became a Member and later a Fellow of the Institute of Chemical Engineering and in 2008 was awarded his certificate of 70 years membership.
At the end of the war Tailby transferred to ICI Plastics at Welwyn but the lure of academia was too strong and he was appointed to be the first full-time lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Battersea Polytechnic under Dr Kenyon FRS, Head of the Chemistry Department. Initially running a conversion course for ex-service graduates in chemistry and engineering, the course developed into a full degree course preparing students for the London Internal BSc. Evening classes and summer schools were features of the program which were run by a small but highly dedicated team. In 1955 Chemical Engineering became a separate department and when Battersea was granted its Charter to become the University of Surrey, Tailby became the first Professor of Chemical Engineering.
Tailby retained his love of teaching and, notwithstanding the heavy administrative demands on his time, would regularly deliver at least 3 hours of lectures a week. He also developed the course of lectures for the “Engineer in Society” exam thereby equipping engineers for the commercial world and enabling them to broaden their horizons beyond the laboratory.
He was much in demand as an external examiner. He was particularly pleased to be appointed to Cambridge University to “help us keep our feet on the ground”, as his appointers put it.
Aside from his mainstream academic work, Tailby played his part in the wider University life. He sponsored Dame Sybil Thorndike, the actress, for an honorary degree in a speech which drew wide acclaim. He was also Chairman of a number of internal University committees ranging from Higher Awards to Residences.
In 1975 he was delighted and honoured to be awarded the Arnold Greene Medal for his services to Chemical Engineering technician education and just prior to retirement lectured at the two-part International Symposium on the History of Chemical Engineering held in Honolulu in 1979 and Las Vegas in 1980.
Retiring from the University in 1981, he travelled to India to deliver a series of lectures in Kolkata (Calcutta) in 1982 followed by lecture tours in Peru in 1986 and 1987. The aim of these tours was to organise science to benefit the Third World and specifically covered training and use of resources.
Over many years Tailby developed an interest in Spanish and obtained an A level following his retirement. From 1983 to 1997 when he was 80, he taught O level Spanish to small groups of students at Christ’s Hospital and Farlington schools near Horsham.
A keen field sportsman, lepidopterist and naturalist – his butterfly collection is in the Booth Museum at Brighton, Tailby was an enthusiastic disciple of John Henry Newman whose writings led him to convert to the Church of Rome at the end of the war.
He is survived by his wife Jean, who supported him throughout his career. Two children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren who gave him enormous pleasure.
Christopher Tailby. CBE