Arthur Patrick Campbell - obituary (MSc CEng CChem MIChemE MRSC)
8 October 1933 –1 July 2021
Arthur passed away at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital with his wife, Tina, at his bedside on the morning of July 1st, 2021. His death resulted from a stroke. Arthur was an accomplished chemist and chemical engineer, whose prior industrial experience enriched three decades of his dedicated service as an academic.
Arthur was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, England. His expertise spanned safety, materials, heat transfer, fluid dynamics, powder technology, pinch technology, and image analysis. Major research developments concerned using image analysis allied with cine techniques to collect data from a moving particulate system. Arthur’s unique style of lecturing was loud, clear, and vivid with anecdotes.
These anecdotes drew upon his industrial experience after completing a postgraduate education in chemistry at the Royal College of Science and Technology (now University of Strathclyde), Glasgow, Scotland in 1958. Arthur began his career in the pharmaceutical industry as a pilot plant chemist at May and Baker Ltd in Dagenham, England. This work included the production of the psychiatric medication Largactil.
Arthur continued his studies at night school, taking up the then-new subject of chemical engineering, following which he went on to design and commission new plants at British Oxygen Company in London. John Brown Engineering Ltd noticed Arthur’s aptitude for commissioning and appointed him to conduct multi-year assignments firstly in Poland, and then in India.
On these assignments, Arthur developed strong training skills, a passion for travel, and empathy for all that followed him for the rest of his life. Living behind the Iron Curtain in Poland, his passport was temporarily confiscated by the Communist authorities, to prevent him from leaving the country. Arthur formed a lasting bond with the Polish people and, in his later career at Birmingham, welcomed many Polish students and colleagues, including Mirek Wyszynki.
In India, the original purpose of Arthur’s plant was to supply cryogenic oxygen to a steel works rising out of the jungle in the new industrial town of Durgapur, thus realizing a dream of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. Arthur’s plant team received several visits from Nehru, but also from cobras, which found the water closet in the British living quarters an ideal place to shelter from the heat. He developed a love of Indian cuisine, which he passed on to his children and grandchildren. His impact upon India is enduring: in recent months, Arthur’s plant has become the source of emergency Oxygen to New Delhi via the “Oxygen Express” train in response to India’s COVID-19 crisis.
Returning from India, Arthur travelled through Australia, where he met Dr John Davidson who was visiting from Cambridge University. Over dinner and wine, John recruited Arthur into a teaching position at Cambridge’s fast-growing Chemical Engineering Department. Coming to Cambridge in 1966, Arthur became a member of Trinity College. In his teaching role, he supervised the Chemical Engineering Department’s newly introduced design project, whilst also conducting research in the field of powder technology.
Arthur’s time at Cambridge fully ignited his passion for teaching. He took up a lecturing position at Birmingham University in 1971. He taught design, materials, and safety for three decades until his retirement in 2001. He became Director of Design Studies in 1975 and rose to Senior Lecturer in 1989. Arthur brought realism to the final-year design problem by inviting companies to provide projects based on the operating plants that they ran.
He built on his relationships with industry and accumulated a formidable catalogue of design projects with these partner companies. Those companies included BP, Shell, Unilever, ICI, M.W. Kellogg, and John Brown.
His Birmingham graduates were highly sought after by recruiters for their strong pragmatic design skills and Arthur took pride in their success in industry and academia. One student wrote, “Other lecturers taught us to pass an exam; Mr Campbell taught us for life.” Another observed, in answering whether Arthur taught loudly enough, that Arthur’s lectures “can be heard from the Muirhead Tower”, a building that was a quarter of a mile across campus.
Together with Ron Bickle, Arthur authored the popular “Shortcut Methods in Chemical Engineering”. Arthur investigated the storage of indigenous food in tropical countries to reduce food wastage due to biodegradation. He supervised several postgraduate works on this topic, notably the doctoral thesis, “Free surface segregation of particulate solids” that Daniel Ikho-Omoregbe completed in 1985.
Arthur was a valued consultant and trouble-shooter to local companies, including British Gas, Courtaulds, Lucas, and Thorn-Osram. His projects involved powder technology, design, and materials. He also pioneered a “Teaching Company” approach with Redditch-based battery manufacturer, Marathon Alcad, resulting in Masters theses for George Rees, Mike Fell, and John Bithell in 1989.
In the 1990s, Arthur started a popular materials course for the Chartered Institute of Brewing and enjoyed his visits to the local brewing town of Burton-upon-Trent. He was invited to take part in an IChemE delegation to Vietnam in 1994 and became instrumental in increasing the scope for cooperation between British and Vietnamese industry. Training visits from Vietnamese students to Birmingham, including that of Tran Thi Ngoc Hiep, were part of the process.
Arthur also took up an invitation to visit the University of Mauritius to lecture on chemical plant design in 1998, introducing the design project to the students in their established HND in Sugar Technology. This design project was an essential part of upgrading the HND to a chemical engineering course for accreditation by the British Institution of Chemical Engineers.
Humility, empathy, and integrity were amongst Arthur’s qualities as an academic and a man. When one colleague asked him why he was a chemical engineer, Arthur surprisingly replied that it was the best way in which he could serve God. Arthur enlivened his course on materials with insights into the physics of the origin of the universe. He found teaching deeply rewarding and had a passion for simplifying complex problems that ensured a queue along his corridor during his office hours.
Integral to Arthur’s didactics was just how approachable he was. Shortly before his retirement, he was delighted when one of his tutees visited his office, not to ask for help, but just to see how Arthur was doing. In 1992, the students and colleagues of Birmingham Chemical Engineering Department voted Arthur Best Lecturer. Arthur is survived by his wife, sister, four children, and six grandchildren.
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