This year’s Winter Ball was held at The Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate, Friday 17th November 2017 which was made famous by Agatha Christie and her mysterious disappearance.
I was privileged to give the Response to The Chairman (Mr Steve Wood) and I started with Agatha Christie as a precursor to my version of “A Brief History in Time” and some very industry specific and influential scientist. I have copied my speech below for your interest. It marks the start of our campaign to launch our celebrations for our Centenary Year 2018.
“Mr Chairman, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to the Northern Sections OCCA Winter Ball and to respond to the Chairman’s address.
In 1926, on the 14th December, Agatha Christie was found at The Swan Hydropathic Hotel in Harrogate in room 253 after an 11 day disappearance following a row with her husband Archibald in which he asked for a divorce and declared his love for Nancy Neele. Agatha had registered into this hotel as Mrs Teresa Neele. She was born in 1890 as Agatha Miller and married Archibald Christie on Christmas Eve of 1914. Agatha Christie is the best selling novelist of all time, selling approximately 2 billion copies worldwide, ranked third behind Shakespere and The Bible. She wrote – The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1916 and published in 1920 during which time OCCA was founded in 1918.
I find this period of time fascinating, with King George 5th on the throne and in 1917 he renamed the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha into todays House of Windsor. To put things into perspective, Rutherford first split the atom in 1917 and in 1918 OCCA was formed as an association to share ideas following the restrictions of export and requisition for War Effort of Linseed Oil also known as Flaxseed Oil which for the chemists amongst us is a triglyceride of which the Glycerol backbone is found. So the use of Glycerol to form Nitroglycerine was considered more important than using Linseed Oil as a drying oil for oil modified Alkyds which came into existence in the early 1920,s. In 1920 Hermann Staudinger wrote his famous paper “Uber Polymerisation” and in 1922 his paper on Macromolecules was the basis for Polymerisation as we know it today although his peers at the time didn’t agree. He was finally proven correct when in the 1930,s Herman Mark provided direct evidence by X-Ray diffraction and this work led to Carothers inventing Nylon in 1935. Incidentally the myth of Nylon being simultaneously invented in New York and London is not true. It’s intended name of No-Run could not be justified so the name Nylon was made up.
Also around this time (1928) Alexander Fleming first observed the effects of Penicillin and Howard Florey and Ernst Chain isolated it and by 1941 the drug was available for therapeutic use. In the early 1950’s Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins studied DNA using X-Rays leading to James Watson and Francis Crick discovering the 3D double Helix structure. Interestingly this work on DNA has Herman Mark to thank for his formative works on X-Ray diffraction and going full circle to Hermann Staudinger and his works on Macromolecules and Organisims which formed the basis of countless modern developments in the fields of Biosciences and material sciences which supported the rapid growth of the Plastics industry. Hermann Staudinger was awarded The Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1953 and Herman Mark was awarded the Perkin Medal in 1980.
The Perkin Medal was first awarded to Sir William Henry Perkin in 1906 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of Mauvine, the worlds first synthetic aniline dye by the man himself.
The first President of OCCA was Fredrick Mollow Perkin, the son of Sir William Henry Perkin by his second marriage. Sir William was the founder of our colour industry and aged just 18 he made a Purple colour that could dye silk, known as Mauvene. This discovery virtually created the Coal Tar industry of which aniline is a derivative. Coal Tar is a by-product of the gas industry so to manufacturers it was a waste product and they literally gave it away, so you can see why Sir William had some Yorkshire traits.
I have found a letter from Robert Pullar to William Perkin dated 14th May 1857
“I am glad to hear that a rage for your colour has set in among that all powerful class of the community – the ladies. If they once take a mania for it and you can supply the demand, your fame and fortune are secure”
How true, just saying!!
Dr Fredrick Mollow Perkin was elected President of The Paint and Varnish Society 1915-1916 and he wrote a paper entitled:
“The possibilities of the British Paint and Varnish Trade, owing to the European Situation”.
How ironic! Is history repeating itself?
On the 16th May 1918 at 6.30pm OCCA was formed with Dr Fredrick Mollow Perkins as President. November 6th 1925 saw the Manchester Section formed followed somewhat later by a new Scottish Section November 8th 1934. Although OCCA was formed in London, it became an official section in September 1937. In September 1939 the lights went out in Europe and OCCA with its 3 sections formed “A Regional Emergency Scheme” and by September 1949 it had 22 regions each with its own Honorary Secretary, including Birmingham, Bristol, Hull and Newcastle. Newcastle was the next section to be officially formed in 1942 followed by Hull in April 1943 and Bristol in June 1944. Post War sections included Midlands 1948 and West Riding 1953 on 24th February. During the 1960’s OCCA was flourishing and branches were set up in Southern London, Thames Valley,the Scottish Section formed an Eastern Branch and the Midlands Section formed Trent Valley branch. In 1961 an Irish branch of the Bristol Section was formed and in 1966 it became a full Section. Post War also saw the formation of overseas Sections in New South Wales,Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. All of this is a far cry from our current situation. West Riding was formed with 41 members rising to its peak in 1993 of 185. We now have only 38.
Next year is our centenary year and we have had a very interesting journey. We are planning lots of events throughout the year with the pinnacle being Surfex 2018 with a Technical Conference and Centenary Dinner running alongside. I hope that we can hold a very special Winter Ball next year for the whole of OCCA and celebrate in style and pay tribute to some of the amazing events I have highlighted in my “Brief History of OCCA”
Did Hermann Staudinger really envisage that we would still be working on The Human Genome Project and genetic engineering and did he realise how inter- related our industry chemistry is to that of Life Science Chemistry?
I will leave you with a quote from Agatha Christie:
“It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realise just how much you love them”.
Well I think you all look ridiculously splendid tonight and I would to thank you for listening and I wish you all a very good evening and carry on having fun.”
I hope you find this brief history of OCCA interesting and we look forward to our celebrations next year. If any members, particularly our senior 50 year members, have any recollections or memories they wish to share we would be only too pleased to include them in SCI 2018.