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John Ferguson Bell

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John Ferguson Bell (1856-1937)

President of Institution of Gas Engineers

1937 Obituary [1]

Sir JOHN FERGUSON BELL was associated for over thirty-six years with the Derby Gas Light and Coke Company, of which he became chairman in 1932. During his career in the gas industry he held directorships in a number of gas undertakings and also had all extensive practice as a consulting engineer.

He was born in 1856 and received his education at Liverpool University College. After serving au eight years' apprenticeship in the workshops of the Birkenhead Corporation Gas and Water Works, he was made a draughtsman in 1877 and later became assistant engineer. In 1883 he was appointed engineer to the Stafford Corporation Gas and Electricity Derailment. The reconstruction of the gas works was carried out under his supervision; and in conjunction with Dr. John Hopkinson, F.R.S., M.I.Mech.E., he erected the Corporation electric supply station, of which he afterwards took over the management.

In 1900 he went to Derby as engineer to the Derby Gas light and Coke Company, and immediately initiated his policy of absorbing the smaller gas undertakings nearby. He also rebuilt and greatly enlarged the Litchurch and Cavendish Street works, and later the Helper works; in addition he acted as engineer to Burton Corporation Gas Company. He was a pioneer in the introduction of the De Brouwer stoking machine into this country and was the author of a treatise on gas purification and naphthalene extraction, and of various papers on allied subjects which he contributed to technical societies. In 1917 he designed and built a complete new section of the Litchurch works, comprising boiler plant, water-gas plant, berm', purifying, and sulphate of ammonia plants.

He introduced in 1930 a system for conveying coke oven gas direct from the pit head to Derby works. This involved the laying of 22 miles of 12-inch and 15-inch mains, and the installation of suitable purifying, compressing, and boiler plants. During the previous year he had been elected a director of the company, whilst retaining his position as engineer and general manager. In 1931 he became deputy chairman, and in 1932 chairman; in the latter year he relinquished his duties as general manager.

For more than twenty years he had devoted much time to municipal affairs. He was elected Mayor of Derby in 1928; and in 1930, after the death of Isis successor to the mayoralty, he was re-elected to serve for the remainder of the period. In recognition of his public services, he was knighted in 1931.

Sir John was elected a Member of the Institution in 1907 and was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was elected president of the Institution of Gas Engineers in 1925. His death occurred at Mickleover, Derby, on 21st November 1937.

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