Ivor Jenkins


Friday 20 September 2013 05:20

Ivor Jenkins, metallurgist: born Gorseinon, Glamorgan 25 July 1913; scientific staff, General Electric Co 1935-44, Head of Metallurgy Department 1946-52, Chief Metallurgist 1952-61; Deputy Chief Metallurgist, Whitehead Iron & Steel Co, Newport 1944-46; Director of Research, Manganese Bronze Holdings 1961-69; Director of Research, Delta Metal Co 1969-73, Group Director of Research 1973-78; managing director, Delta Materials Research 1973-77, deputy chairman 1977-78; CBE 1970; married 1941 Caroline James; died Bognor Regis, West Sussex 15 August 2003.

Ivor Jenkins was one of that fraternity of research metallurgists which worked in support of British industrial development - in war and in peace - in the middle years of the 20th century.

It was a large research community, based in both company and national laboratories, furthering the production and processing of metals and advancing their applications in all the major industries - aeronautical and marine engineering, power generation, electrical machines, electronics and communications. Metallurgy provided new and improved alloys and also assessed their service performance. The leading metallurgists of the time formed a relatively small but distinguished group, closely connected through the learned societies and institutions, exerting a powerful influence on the course of industrial advance. Jenkins was one among them.

He was born in Gorseinon, near Swansea, in 1913 and educated locally at Gowerton Grammar School. In 1934 he graduated in metallurgy from University College, Swansea, subsequently gaining the degree of Doctor of Science in the University of Wales.

His first employment was with the GEC in their Wembley laboratories. By 1946 he was Head of the Metallurgy Department, becoming Chief Metallurgist in 1952. He moved to Manganese Bronze Holdings in 1961 as Director of Research and when his laboratory was taken over by the Delta Metal Company, later the Delta Group, he became their Director of Research.

Jenkins was a prominent member of the metals community. He was president of the professional body, the Institution of Metallurgists, in 1965, and of the learned society, the Institute of Metals, in 1968. Both institutions were absorbed later within the Metals Society, which awarded him its Platinum Medal in 1978.

He had maintained close contacts with academic departments all his working life and in his later years was a Visiting Professor at Surrey University. He became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (as it now is) in 1979. The subject of powder metallurgy had been a continuing interest through his life, and he co-edited Selected Case Studies in Powder Metallurgy in 1991. In 1993 he was President of the Plansee Conference, a forum for research in this field. An annual award in powder metallurgy now bears his name.

Metallurgical research in the latter half of the 1900s underwent great changes; understanding of the structure and properties of metals was underpinned by advances in related subjects, particularly physics and chemistry, and by new instrumentation which enabled the direct observation of structures and the progress of microscopic events to be followed at high magnification. It fell to Jenkins to bring the developing knowledge and techniques to bear on the industrial issues of the time, against a changing academic background where metallurgy was increasingly being embodied in the subject of materials science, with some departments renamed accordingly.

He retired in 1978 somewhat disillusioned by the course of British industrial research over the last 50 years - the closure of so many laboratories, private and governmental, and the general undervaluing of longer-term research and its replacement, in part, by hand-to-mouth troubleshooting.

In 1982 he moved to Cyprus but he kept a summer foot in England and maintained his links with old metallurgical friends.

James Kennedy

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