George Anthony (Tony) Lee: 1982—1983

George Anthony (Tony) Lee: 1982—1983

Tony Lee was born in January 1923 and was educated at Stenying Grammar School where, at the age of 14, he took his School Certificate. As the only Sixth Form science pupil he sat his Higher School Certificate at 15. Although he failed this exam, he had managed to successfully complete his matriculation soon after war was declared in 1939.

He had intended studying chemistry - but with wartime college closures he joined ICI (Paints) Laboratories in Slough until he successfully competed in a War Office exam for special entry into the technical branches of the Army in 1941. He chose the Royal Engineers and after recruit training spent the next six months with 30 others at the University of Birmingham on a specially adapted and concentrated General Engineering course. He was commissioned in the autumn of 1942 and when an overseas posting arrived it involved a journey by sea calling at Durban, Aden, Suez, Bombay and Basra. He finally arrived in Baghdad and although he had been incorrectly despatched there he and the others with him joined the Bengal Sappers & Miners of the Indian Army rather than spending more time travelling.

He was released from the Army in 1947 with the rank Acting Lt. Colonel and chose to study chemistry at the University of Birmingham. However before the academic year began it had been suggested to him that he should study chemical engineering - combining his early interest in chemistry with his wartime experience in engineering, and he subsequently gained a first class honours degree in that subject. 

After graduation Tony Lee joined the Kuwait Oil Company in Kuwait in 1951 and remained there for the next 20 years. He started his working life there as a corrosion engineer and various promotions gave him responsibilities for project planning, engineering operation and finally as Manager, Engineering & Services.

The Institute of Petroleum established a branch in Kuwait of which Tony Lee was secretary and then Chairman for a number of years. He was also for a time Chairman of a Joint Overseas Group of Professional Engineers (consisting of members of the Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and Chemical Engineering Institutions).

In the early 1970s Tony Lee expressed his intention to leave Kuwait and he was given opportunity to return to British Petroleum in London (the Kuwait Oil Company having been owned equally by BP and Gulf). He first returned to the Exploration & Production Department and was later appointed General Manager Engineering and then, in January 1977, a Director of BP Trading. Several reorganisations took place in the company after that and at the time of taking on IChemE's Presidency he was Director,
Engineering & Technical Services for the BP Group.

It was after his permanent return to the UK that Tony Lee began his active connection with the Institution, answering a request for names of members interested in participating in its committees and he was subsequently elected on to Council in 1976 for a four year term. He pursued one principal theme: that the education, training and experience of a chemical engineer equipped him to a greater degree than many other engineers, to thinking of whole systems or processes, rather than elements of them alone. He was a keen advocate of the "liberalisation" (not lowering) of qualifications standards, including allowing experience in a wide range of industries to count towards Corporate Membership of the Institution.

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