Sir Arthur McDougall Duckham KCB: 1923—1925

Sir Arthur McDougall Duckham KCB: 1923—1925

Sir Arthur McDougall Duckham, first President of the Institution, was born in 1879 at Blackheath, and educated at Blackheath School and King's College London. He then served an apprenticeship under Sir George Livesey, during which time he specialised in all branches of furnace work, coal carbonisation, and chemical engineering in general. In 1899 he was appointed an assistant superintendent on the staff of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, and in 1901 he went to the Bournemouth Gas and Water Company as assistant engineer under Mr H W Woodall (later Lieutenant-Colonel Woodall CIE). While there Mr Duckham and his chief worked together to improve the existing methods of gas manufacture, and they eventually devised what has since become known as the Woodall-Duckham vertical retort for the continuous carbonisation of coal. This retort was the first in which coal carbonisation was carried out continuously on a commercial scale. The success attending this invention led to the formation of the group of companies, the Woodall-Duckham Companies, of which Sir Arthur Duckham was chairman. Sir Arthur was also responsible for successful inventions dealing with kilns, ovens, and other kindred subjects. 

Apart from his assistance to the development of the gas industry by his inventions, Sir Arthur also held the office of President of the Society of British Gas Industries for two years, was one of the Vice-Presidents of the British Commercial Gas Association, and was elected an honorary member of the Institution of Gas Engineers. 

His activities in the gas industry did not prevent Sir Arthur from taking an important part in public service. During the war he held successively the following Government appointments: 

  • Member of the Munitions Inventions Panel, and Deputy-Comptroller of the Munitions
  • Inventions Department; Deputy-Director General in charge of machine guns, rifles etc
  • Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Minister of Munitions
  • Members of the Council of the Ministry of Munitions in charge of aeronautical supplies, mechanical warfare, machine tools etc
  • Director General of Aircraft Production; Member of the Air Council, and Chairman of the War Cabinet Priority Sub-Committee

After the War he served on the Coal Commission, which sat in 1919 under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Sankey, when being unable to subscribe to the General Report, Sir Arthur issued a Minority Report of his own. 

In the annals of the Institution Sir Arthur will be especially remembered as one of those who were most active in its formation. In 1922 he accepted the chairmanship of the Committee formed to promote the Institution, becoming chairman of the Provisional Council, and in 1923 the first President. The Transactions show how much the Institution owes to his leadership and inspiration during the first years of its being.

View the text of Sir Arthur Duckham's 1924 Presidential Address

View the text of Sir Arthur Duckham's 1925 Presidential Address

Return to list