Edward John Cullen: 1988—1989
John Cullen was born in October 1926, and won a scholarship to Culford School in 1937. He applied for an RAF Short Course at Cambridge and spent six months at Emmanuel College before joining the RAF in 1945.
Once the Japanese war ended he faced redundancy at the age of 18 so, returning to Cambridge in 1948, he read natural sciences for two years before a further two reading chemical engineering.
He then spent a year at the University of Texas taking a Masters degree before beginning PhD studies on gas absorption in streamline flow back at Cambridge in 1953.
He decided that an academic career was not for him and, determined to enter into industry, joined the UKAEA at the Windscale R&D Department in 1956. In 1958 he moved on to ICI at Billingham where he was plant manager. After an initial 18 months at Billingham and a similar period looking after several plants, he moved to New York on a three year technical liaison assignment.
In 1963 he became Technical Manager of Phillips Imperial Petroleum, a joint venture between ICI and Phillips Petroleum, and oversaw the building of a refinery on Teesside. The plant was only half built when he went to run part of the works at Wilton and a year later, in 1966, became Assistant Works Manager of the Oil Works at Billingham.
Then in 1967 John Cullen was approached to join Rohm & Haas when the American company wanted to expand its operation into Europe. His new challenge was to choose the site for a major plant and he ended up as Managing Director of Rohm & Haas UK.
Right from his early days with ICI he had been involved in safety and in 1979 he became European Director of Rohm & Haas, responsible for engineering, regulatory affairs, health, safety and the environment. He also became Deputy Chairman of the Chemical Industries Association's Chemical Industry Safety, Health & Environment Committee. And it was this background in safety that led to him being offered the Chairmanship of the Health & Safety Commission in 1983. His first four years in the role have seen advances on major hazards, control of dangerous substances and in the nuclear field, with major hazard (CIMAH) legislation now in place and the COSHH regulations on hazardous substances in preparation.
Since being elected an IChemE Fellow in 1965, John Cullen has had a long association with the Institution spending a number of years on Council in various roles - as a Vice President (1977-1978 and then again from 1985-1987), as Joint Honorary Secretary (with John Luckins) from 1978-1980, as Honorary Secretary (1980-1981), and as Honorary Treasurer (1981-1985). In addition to his membership of the Finance Committee, he also played an important role as a member of the Development Committee, set up in 1976 in response to the recommendations of the Ashton Working Party, looking at the future of the Institution.
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