Obituary: Dr A K Barbour

06 September 2019

It is with regret that SCI announces the death of member Dr A K Barbour OBE, BSc, PhD, C.Chem, FRSC, FIMM. He was a member of the Bristol & South West Regional Group and the Environment Health & Safety Technical Interest Group and a much-valued member of SCI since April 1960. 

Dr A K Barbour OBE, (‘Joe’ to the legion of friends he acquired worldwide during his long career in the chemical industry) was born on 27 June 1926 in Birmingham.

As he grew up, he lived near to the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) factory which was a primary target for German bombing during the war.  After a particularly hard night’s bombing when the roof of their house lifted and was declared unsafe, the family moved to Wolverhampton where Joe went to Wolverhampton Technical School.  Thereafter he went to the University of Birmingham in 1947 and received B.Sc (Hons) in Chemistry (1st Class) and, thereafter, a PhD for research in Organic Fluorine Chemistry.

He joined the Research and Development department of the former Imperial Smelting Corporation Limited at Avonmouth in late 1950 and successively became Chemical Research Manager and then Head of Chemical and Metallurgical Research and Development in 1966. In that year he was appointed to the Board of the operating company at Avonmouth.

Joe’s hands-on contribution to fluorine chemistry ceased in the late 1960s but the group he established at ISC continued to flourish throughout the seventies as part of RTZ Chemicals which was sold to Rhone–Poulenc, when the parent company decided to concentrate on mining and minerals extraction in 1989.

In 1971, he transferred to the position of Group Environmental Scientist with the parent company, Rio Tinto Zinc Corporation and retired from that post in June 1989.

He was Chairman of the CBI Air Pollution Panel and a member of the Environment Groups of the Chemical Industries Association (Chairman 1979–1982), CBI and Lead Cadmium Associations.

Joe was a non-executive Board member of Wessex Water (both authority and plc) from 1980 to 1994 carrying out much environmental auditing for Wessex Water during that period.

His work on the diagnosis and amelioration of environmental and pollution issues, brought him important honours; OBE in 1988; RSC (the Royal Society of Chemistry) distinguished and environmental guest electorship, 1974; SCI (Society of Chemical Industry, London) environmental medal, 1995; RSC award in environmental chemistry, 1996; Honorary DSc, University of the West of England 1998. 

He was also a visiting Professor at the International Centre of the Environment in the School of Management at the University of Bath. Prior to this appointment, he was a visiting Professor in Chemistry (Environmental) at UMIST 1981–1993 and a visiting Professor at the University of East Anglia from 1976 to 1981. He gave many lectures on Industrial Environmental issues including active participation in courses at the Universities of Bristol, Bath and UWE. He was an active member of the Bristol City Council European Awareness Scenario Workshop, which was concerned with sustainable development for the City of Bristol.

Joe was Chairman of the Environment, Health and Safety Committee of Eurometaux, the trade association of the EU non-ferrous metals industry from 1980–1992.

In 1993/1994 he was Chairman of the Pilot Evaluation of British Standard BS7750 (“Environmental Management Systems”) on behalf of BSI. BS7750 which became the basis for the ISO 14000 series of international standards.

To those who knew Joe, his contribution was always delivered consistently, over many years with scientific rigour, unswerving integrity and with an excellent sense of humour.

Joe was an avid Aston Villa fan carrying on the family tradition.  He was a keen musician and, as a young man, played the saxophone in a band which played in Wolverhampton. He retained a love of music especially the music from the dance band days. He also had a great interest in motorcycles and cars.

Joe leaves his much-loved wife Audrey and their two children, Elizabeth and Neil, to whom we extend our sincere condolences. 
Show me news from
All themes
All categories
All years
search by