Papers and correspondence of Sir Frederick Warner

Reference and contact details: GB 301 Sir Frederick Warner
Title: Papers and correspondence of Sir Frederick Warner
Dates of Creation: 1925-2005
Held at: University of Essex
Extent: ca 2500 items
Language of Material: English
Name of Creator: Sir Frederick Edward Warner
Level of Description: fonds

Administrative/Biographical History

Frederick Edward Warner was born in London on 31 March 1910. He attended Wanstead National School and Bancrofts School, Woodford Green, Essex, before going on to study chemistry as an undergraduate at University College London, supported by an Old Bancroftian Exhibition. At university Warner threw himself fully into student life, being President of the Debating Society (1931), President of the University of London Athletic Club (1932), President of the University of London Union (1933) and playing for University of London Rugby Club (1931-1934). He graduated B.Sc. in 1931 and following his graduation went on to research in chemical engineering. However, Warner's extensive involvement in student life, principally rugby and left wing politics, led him to neglect his academic studies and he failed the diploma taken in 1932 (he passed the following year). During this research period he made the acquaintance of H.W. Cremer and M.B. Donald, both of whom were to be significant in his later career. In 1934 Warner secured his first post, as assistant chemical engineer with the company A. Boake Roberts & Co. Ltd. This included work with L.W. Townsend on the manufacture of ethyl acetate. For a short time from 1938 to 1940 he worked for the British Launderers Research Association as a research engineer.

In 1940 Warner joined Cynamid Products as a Construction Superintendent. He worked on the construction of nitric and sulphuric acid plants for the manufacture of explosives in Royal Ordnance factories. He remained with Cynamid until 1944 when he joined the company APV as Design and Sales Engineer. In 1948 he was persuaded by his research supervisor from university days, H.W. Cremer, to join Carless Capel and Leonard, working in their factory at Hackney Wick, London.

In 1956 he left Carless, again to join H.W. Cremer, becoming a Partner in the firm Cremer and Warner, consulting chemical engineers (Senior Partner 1963-1980). As well as consultancies in the UK, for example for the National Coal Board on underground gasification of coal, he undertook international contracts including India and the USSR. His field of work ranged widely. It included the problems of large-scale plant contracts, air and water pollution, coal and oil gasification, applied fluid mechanics, risk assessment and more generally, the education of engineers. Warner retired from full-time work in 1980 but continued as a consultant.

Warner held a wide range of professional roles. Among these were membership of the Council of the Institution of Chemical Engineers 1948-1950 and again from 1953 (Honorary Secretary 1953 and President 1966-1967), chairmanship of the Executive Board of the British Standards Institution 1973-1976 (President 1980-1983), Presidency of the British Hydromechanics Research Association 1980-1987 and Presidency of the Institute of Quality Assurance from 1987. He also served as Chairman of the Council of Science and Technology Institutes. He was a member of the Council of Engineering Institutions' Working Party on Pollution and of the Hazards Forum, set up by a meeting of engineering bodies in 1989. Following his election to the Royal Society, Warner served as Chairman of the British National Committee on Problems of the Environment 1977-1980 and chaired the Society's Study Groups on Risk 1978-1983 and 1991-1992.

In 1982 Warner was appointed Treasurer of the International Council of Scientific Unions Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), serving to 1988. Over the period 1983-1999 he chaired three SCOPE projects of major importance: ENUWAR (Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War), RADPATH (Pathways of Artificial Radionuclides) and RADTEST (Radiation from Nuclear Test Explosions). ENUWAR was concerned particularly with assessing the predictions surrounding the possible Nuclear Winter' scenario following a nuclear exchange, while the RADPATH project had a special focus on examining the data from the fall-out from the explosion at the Chernobyl reactor. The RADTEST project focused on the releases of radioactivity from nuclear test explosions at test sites around the world for peaceful and military purposes. The University of Essex hosted the SCOPE Unit that provided administrative support for these three programmes, organising meetings, circulating papers and preparing reports. Warner was also an adviser to the project RADSITE, Radioactivity from military installation sites and effects on population health', which was established to follow on from RADTEST.

His experience with RADPATH following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 led Warner to suggest the establishment of a voluntary organisation of engineers and scientists over the age of 65 willing to risk ionising radiation in order to make initial damage assessments in the event of a nuclear accident. He met with a positive response. Volunteers for Ionising Radiation (VIR) was established and although the idea did not meet with approval in all circles, the VIR were incorporated into the emergency provisions of the Order of St John.

As well as his extensive professional commitments, Warner also acted in an advisory capacity to Government and Government-appointed bodies. These included service on the Ministry of Housing's (later Department of the Environment) Standing Technical Committee on Synthetic Detergents (as Chairman) 1970-1974, the National Economic Development Office's Process Plant Working Party 1971-1976 and Task Force on Quality and Standards 1983-1985 (both as Chairman), the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution 1973-1976, and the Advisory Council on Energy Conservation to the Department of Energy 1974-1980. He also worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive and served as a Technical Advisor at the Inquiry into the Explosion at the Flixborough Chemical Works 1974-1975 and an Assessor to the Windscale Inquiry in 1977-1978.

In additional to his career as a consulting engineer, Warner held a number of university appointments. He was a Fellow of University College London from 1967 and Visiting Professor in Environmental Science there 1970-1986. He was also Visiting Professor in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London 1970-1978. Later he was based at Essex University, being appointed Visiting Professor in Chemistry 1983 and Visiting Professor in Law in 1988. Warner also served as Pro-Chancellor of the Open University 1974-1979, during which period he was called upon to act in a number of difficult cases.

Warner was knighted in 1968 for his services to chemical engineering. He was elected FRS in 1976 (Leverhulme Medal 1978, Buchanan Medal 1982), and elected to the Fellowship of Engineering the same year. He received a number of honorary degrees from British universities and international awards included the Rhineland Prize for Environmental Protection, 1984 and the Gerard Piel Award for Service to Science in the Cause of Man, 1991.

Scope and Content

The material presented here chiefly dates from the late 1960s to the late 1990s and there is thus a pronounced emphasis on Warner's later advisory and professional involvements with UK and international organisations. Warner's professional career as a chemical engineer, including his partnership in Cremer and Warner, and such significant activities as the Flixborough Inquiry are only sketchily represented.

There is biographical material relating to Warner's life and career including curricula vitae and autobiographical accounts. There is Warner's collection of 1930s memorabilia, much of it relating to his student and Left wing activities in that era, and to his musical interests. A little material relating to Warner's career and professional interests includes documentation of a 1956 visit to India with the United Kingdom Heavy Engineering Mission. Honours and awards principally comprises letters of congratulation received on his knighthood; other awards documented include the Rhineland Prize for Environmental Protection 1984 and the Gerard Piel Award 1991. Warner had many interests outside his work, those documented include the Old Bancroftians Association and his involvement with Church activities, internationally (European Ecumenical Assembly Peace with Justice', Basel, Switzerland, May 1989), regionally (Diocese of Chelmsford) and locally (St James Church, Brightlingsea). There is a little family correspondence and personal correspondence 1954-1996, and a number of photographs.

Records of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) form the single largest component of this collection. They present documentation of Warner's general involvement with SCOPE, including as Treasurer, but the most significant and sizeable components document his involvement - as chairman - with the three SCOPE projects: ENUWAR, RADPATH and RADTEST. All three are extensively covered with a very wide range of material. It includes initial proposals for and establishment of the projects, project membership, funding, areas to be covered, project organisation and management, arrangements for workshops, papers presented and preparation of the published reports. There is also extensive printed and photocopy background material, the bulk kept in numbered sequences relating to the three projects, and some audio-visual material. The records also include papers relating to the RADSITE project, to a 1991 ad hoc study by SCOPE experts of the effects of the Kuwaiti oil fires against which Nuclear winter' predictive models could be tested, and to the work of the SCOPE Unit at Essex.

Societies and organisations material includes documentation of 52 UK and international bodies. The largest group of papers relates to the Royal Society Study Groups on Assessment and Perception of Risk, chaired by Warner, which reported in 1983 and 1992. There is coverage of the establishment of the Groups, their ongoing work, the preparation and reception of the reports. Other significant documentation in the section records Warner's involvement with a number of specialist working groups established by the engineering profession to assess environmental hazards and risk more generally. These include the Council of Engineering Institutions' Working Party on Pollution, the Hazards Forum and the Institution of Chemical Engineers' Working Party on Nomenclature for Hazard and Risk. There is also material on Warner's membership of the UK National Coordination Committee for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, established in 1990, and on the risk assessment subgroup of the Deregulation Task Force established in 1994. Public service commitments covered include Warner's Trusteeship of the International Technological University and his Pro-Chancellorship of the Open University. Of particular interest is the comprehensive documentation of Warner's work establishing and promoting Volunteers for Ionising Radiation.

Lectures and broadcasts material presents drafts for some of Warner's output as public, invitation and university (as Visiting Professor) lectures. He was in considerable demand as a distinguished chemical engineer, but also for his expertise in such other fields as risk assessment and arbitration and his involvement with important national and international programmes. Prestigious lectures documented include Measurements, Models and Men', the 10th Thomson Lecture, Royal Institution, 1970; Possibilities in Pollution Control', the 59th Thomas Hawkesley Lecture, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1973; Society's Response to Windscale', the Royal Society Hartley Lecture, 1978; and the Marchon Lecture Nuclear Power - Panacea or Peril' at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1979. There are series of lectures given at UCL and Imperial College London 1971 and (Imperial) 1975, some overseas lectures, and talks given at less formal occasions. There is also documentation of some of Warner's broadcasting output, principally for BBC Radio.

Drafts and publications material is not extensive, though the distinction between lectures and publications is blurred and many lectures were subsequently published. Working in industry rather than academia, Warner's principal efforts did not usually result in published output. Publications represented in the archive include Nitric Acid Production', Warner's first substantial article written for the Institution of Chemical Engineers (1946) in which he described his wartime work with Royal Ordnance Factories, other articles on chemical plants, and papers on chemical engineering education. Also of note is Warner's chapter Production Technology', for Technology Today edited by Edward de Bono (London 1971). Warner had an interest in de Bono's unconventional approach to learning and believed it could help engineers and technologists. There are also letters to the press, book reviews, and a number of drafts for which there is no evidence of publication.

Warner's visits and involvement in conferences as organiser and speaker is documented, 1962-1997. Most of the conferences for which records survive concern some aspect of risk, safety and environmental hazards; in particular there is good material relating to the International Risk Assessment Conference, London, October 1992 and the Royal Society Discussion Meeting on Extrapolation of Dose Response Data for Risk Assessment, July 1995. There is also noteworthy coverage of meetings in the later 1960s of the F?ration Europ?ne d'Associations Nationales d'Ing?eurs and the Conference of Engineering Societies of Western Europe and the USA, much of the discussions of which related to improving international cooperation between national engineering organisations. Extended overseas visits documented include Australia in 1976, 1980 and 1985, Canada in 1981, and India in 1986 and 1990.

Warner's correspondence is presented in a number of series, which together span the period from the mid 1960s to the late 1990s, with a few earlier letters. There is an initial alphabetical sequence, the bulk of which dates from the 1960s. Although there are few extended exchanges, and those on engineering topics or consultancies are rarely complete, much of this sequence relates to chemical engineering projects for Cremer and Warner in the 1960s, and is thus virtually the only substantive documentation of Warner's work for this company. Warner appears to have retained the bulk of his engineering and business correspondence in alphabetical arrangement up to the end of the 1970s, for the second series, which seems to follow on, is an alphabetically arranged sequence of groups of letters arranged by correspondent. A third alphabetical sequence dating from the 1980s and 1990s chiefly relates to SCOPE projects. There are also separate chronological sequences of correspondence covering the period 1977 (carbon copies of outgoing correspondence May-December) and 1980-1997.

System of Arrangement

Arrangement: Biographical, Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, Societies and organisations, Lectures and broadcasts, Drafts and publications, Visits and conferences. Index of correspondents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the papers were received from Essex University Library in 2002. Additional biographical material was received from Sir Frederick Warner in 2004 and 2005.

Access Conditions

The University of Essex Albert Sloman Library is open to researchers on application in writing to the Librarian for reference purposes.

Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Sir Frederick Edward Warner. NCUACS catalogue no. 144/1/06, 379pp.. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath.

Processing Information

Compiled by Dr Tim Powell, NCUACS, 3 September 2007