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Richard Threlfall

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Sir Richard Threlfall (1861-1932), Chemist and Engineer, Director of Albright and Wilson.

1932 Obituary[1]


Sir Richard Threlpall, whose death, we regret to record, occurred at Birmingham on Sunday, July 10, at the age of 70, was a physicist who will best he known to engineers for the experiments he conducted many years ago into the causes of spontaneous combustion of coal in ships, and -for his. more recent work in connection with the establishment and operation of the Fuel Research Board.

Richard Threlfall was born at Hollowforth, near Preston, on August 14, 1861, and was educated at Clifton and Cambridge. At the university he was contemporary with the present Master of Trinity, and in addition to his scholastic activities, must be almost unique in scientific circles in having been a Rugby Blue and a member of the University Rifle VIII. In 1886, after he had been through a course of study at the University of Strasburg, Threlfall was appointed Professor of Physics in the University of Sydney, New South Wales, and a few years later became President of the New South Wales Royal Commission on the carriage of coal at sea. He returned to England in 1890 and took up a position as director of Messrs. Albright and Wilson, chemical manufacturers, Oldbury, while in 1905 he was appointed chairman of the Royal Commission which conducted the experiments on spontaneous combustion, above referred to. During the war he was a member of the Advisory Council for (afterwards Department of) Scientific and Industrial Research, as well as of the Trench Warfare and Chemical Warfare Committees, and devised the smoke screens, under the cover of which the famous attack on Zee-brugge was made. He also invented an anti-aircraft I tracer bullet, which bears his name, and suggested the ' use of helium in airships.

When the Fuel Research Board was instituted in 1917, Threlfall was appointed a member and became chairman on the retirement of Sir George Beilby in 1923. He was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1917, and a Knight Grand Cross of the same Order in 1927. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Chemical Society, and had published many papers on physical and chemical subjects. He was awarded the medal of the Society of Chemical Industry in 1929 in recognition of his services in developing industry on scientific lines. He received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science of the Manchester University."

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