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Colourful Chemistry in Carlisle

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic Lecture/ Debate/Seminar


This is a recently developed talk. It refers to the fact that a company weaving fabrics in Carlisle was dependent on dyes imported from Germany, and its supplies were cut off when WW1 broke out. The dyes in question were novel products of BASF, and had never been made in this country. The owner of the Carlisle company, James Morton, tried to get British companies to make the dyes for him, but they said that to do so was quite beyond their capabilities. Morton resolved to make the dyes himself in Carlisle, and recruited a team of chemists who not only replicated the German syntheses but made new dyes. By the end of the war the Carlisle operation was making dyes in tonnage quantities and supplying other textile manufacturers. Morton was determined to continue making dyes after the war, He bought 80 acres of land at Grangemouth in Scotland and floated the dye-making operation as a separate company - Scottish Dyes Ltd. He built a large plant on the Grangemouth site. The Grangemouth site was eventually to become an important part of ICI, employing around 1800 people at its height. Of possible interest to a Lancashire audience is that when Morton expanded and moved his dye making to Scotland, he moved his fabric dyeing and printing to Lancaster, forming a separate company called Standfast Dyers and Printers Ltd. He owned houses near the locations of all three of his companies, and for his Lancaster abode he unsuccessfully attempted to buy Bailrigg, which subsequently was the site of Lancaster University.
Dr John Hudson spent most of his career teaching chemistry in Cambridge at Anglia Ruskin University. He also taught in a secondary school and in a Community College in California. Throughout his career he was always interested in the history of chemistry, and incorporated aspects of the history of chemistry into his teaching whenever possible. In 1992 he published a book on the history of chemistry, intended as a course text to accompany a module he devised and taught on the BSc chemistry course. He was for many years been a member of the Council of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry, serving as its Secretary for nine years. He is also a long-standing member of the Committee of the Historical Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry and is currently the Group’s Chairman. He is now retired, and lives in a farmhouse in the Lake District, where he spends his time walking, renovating his property, and restoring old books. He continues to research the history of chemistry, his current particular interests being the activities of chemists employed by the railway companies in the nineteenth century (on which topic he co-authored a book in 2012), and the life and work of Dr William Brownrigg, an eighteenth century physician and chemist who lived in Whitehaven.

External organisation (Corporate)

Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom