William Kenneth Hutchison CBE: 1959—1961

William Kenneth Hutchison CBE: 1959—1961

William Kenneth Hutchison was educated at Edinburgh Academy and obtained a scholarship at Corpus Christi College, Oxford where he read chemistry. For the Part II of the Honours School he carried out research under Sir Cyril Hinshelwood into the mechanism of gas reactions, the results of which were published in three papers in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. 

He entered the Gas Light and Coke Company in 1926 as a research chemist and worked on processes for the production and purification of gas. He combined fundamental research with its application to industrial practice and was soon engaged in testing the performance of full-scale plant and assessing the results in the light of chemical engineering principles. 

He saw the need for the removal of organic sulphur compounds from gas, and after developing analytical methods which showed that the main constituent was carbon disulphide, he studies the partition factor for carbon disulphide in the wash oil used for benzole recovery and carried out determinations of mass transfer coefficients and heat transfer coefficients. This led to the design of plant for the recovery of benzole and the removal of sulphur compounds from gas by oil washing at high circulation rate with stripping at reduced pressure, and the first plant was installed at Kensal Green in 1937. The outbreak of war in 1939 accelerated the installation of several more large plants for benzole recovery, in all of which he took the most detailed interest, from the first design calculations to supervision of erection and starting up.

In 1940 Kenneth Hutchison was seconded to the Air Ministry as Assistant Director of Hydrogen Production, succeeding Viscount Ridley as Director in 1942. In 1943 he was appointed Director of Compressed Gases, with complete responsibility for the hydrogen used in the balloon barrage and for the oxygen used in high-altitude flying.

In 1945 he returned to the Gas Light and Coke Company first as Controller of By-Products and then as a Director. On the nationalisation of the gas industry he was appointed Chairman of the South Eastern Gas Board and later Deputy Chairman of The Gas Council.

He was a one-time President of the Institution of Gas Engineers and of the British Road Tar Association and was also Chairman of the British Sulphate of Ammonia Federation, a member of Council of the Association of British Chemical Manufacturers and of the National Sulphuric Acid Association, Vice President of the British Wood Preserving Association as well as serving on the Institution's Council from 1944-1947.

Included among his awards and honours was the H E Jones Gold Medal of the Institution of Gas Engineers in 1938 for his paper on the removal of sulphur compounds from gas, and IChemE's Moulton Medal in 1942 for the paper he produced with Dr E Spivey on water cooling towers. In 1954 Kenneth Hutchison was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

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