Jack Wheeler Barrett: 1971—1972

Jack Wheeler Barrett: 1971—1972

Jack Barrett was born in Cheltenham in June 1912 and was educated at Cheltenham Grammar School before entering the Royal College of Science to study chemistry, with subsidiary physics and applied mathematics. He gained a first class degree in chemistry and in 1934 was awarded a PhD for work in structural organic chemistry. At the time of selecting his field of postgraduate work he found it difficult to choose between organic chemistry and chemical technology (which was the forerunner of chemical engineering at Imperial College) and his attraction to the applied side of chemistry was confirmed when he joined the London Essence Co Ltd in south London in 1936. For five years he worked on the formulation of essences and perfumes, the distillation of essential oils, the extraction of resins from ginger and orris root, the production of mineral waters, and even the development of British wines. 

He then joined Monsanto Chemicals Ltd in 1941 as a research group leader at Ruabon; becoming General Manager of Research and Development by 1950, and five years later became Director of Research and Development and a member of the board. This was a period of rapid growth for Monsanto in Britain and Jack Barrett was deeply involved in the development of manufacturing projects and plants ranging from polystyrene and polyethylene through maleic anhydride to single crystal silicon. His work as a director of an international company took him to 17 different countries including India, Czechoslovakia, Australia and, of course, frequent visits to the United States.

For some 10 years he played a leading part in the development of computerised scientific and technical information systems which resulted in 1969 in the creation of the UK Chemical Information Service. He was Chairman of its managerial board and also of the Consortium on Chemical Information, of which the Institution was one of the member publishing societies.

He devoted much time to professional work and was Chairman of the Institution's Research Committee for five years from its inception, and has also served on the Council both as a member and latterly as Vice President. He was Honorary Treasurer of the Chemical Society from 1961, was a general member of the Council of the RIC on two occasions, served as Chairman of the Heavy Organic Chemicals Group of the SCI and also spent two years as Chairman of its London section. 

As far as his international interests were concerned, he was a member of the Finance Committee of the IUPAC and was particularly active in the polymer and plastics interests of that organisation, being a member of the Macromolecular Division, and being the first Chairman, for five years, of a very effective group involving industrial companies and universities in many countries, dealing with the molecular and mechanical properties of polymers. 

He served on the SRC Chemical Engineering & Technology Committee, the Advisory Committee on Scientific & Technical Information of the Department of Education & Science, the Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Technology for Chemical & Process Engineering and the Government Advisory Council on Materials and Chairman of the Organics Materials Committee.

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