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Biographical entry Somerville, John Laird (1899 - 1986)

Born
1899
Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia
Died
25 January 1986
Australia
Occupation
Chemist

Summary

John Laird Somerville was a key player in the growth and advancement of Australia's paper industry. In the 1920s he helped develop machinery and techniques to perfect the use of eucalypts in paper manufacturing. Somerville worked for Forest Products Laboratory, Tasmanian Paper Co., London Paper Mills as Chief Chemist (UK) and as Chief Chemist at the Australian Newsprint Mills. He is best known for the creation of the Somerville Fractionator, which is still used in today's paper industry.

Details

After completing his studies at the University of Western Australia, John Laird Somerville joined the Forest Products Laboratory (Perth) in 1921. There he and L. R. Benjamin developed a modified soda press for pulping eucalypts, which lead to Australia's first commercial production of eucalypt-based paper and pulp. In 1928 Somerville moved to Tasmania to conduct semi-commercial trials of eucalypt pulping at the Tasmanian Paper Co. plant. These trials lead to the first use of eucalypt-based paper for newsprint which occurred in Canada in 1934.

John Somerville was appointed Chief Chemist at London Paper Mills in Kent, England (1931-1934). There he developed the Somerville Fractionator - a machine used for testing pulp. In 1935 (circa) Somerville returned to Australia and took up the post of Chief Chemist at the Australian Newsprint Mills. He retired from this position in 1965. In 1971 John Somerville was awarded the L. R. Benjamin Medal for his services to the paper industry. Somerville held many positions of honour, including President of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (Tasmanian branch), President of the Australian and New Zealand Pulp and Paper Industry Association, and was a member of the Faculty of Science at the University of Tasmania for many years.

Events

1921
Career position - Chemist at the Forest Products Laboratory in Perth
1922
Career position - First commercial manufacture of pulp and paper from Australian eucalypts
1928 - 1930
Career position - Chemist at the Tasmanian Paper Co.
1931 - 1934
Career position - Somerville Fractionator developed
1931 - 1934
Career position - Chief Chemist at the London Paper Mills in Kent, UK
c. 1935 - 1965
Career position - Chief Chemist at the Australian Newsprint Mills
1943 - 1944
Career position - President of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute, Tasmanian branch
1953
Career position - President of the Australian and New Zealand Pulp and Paper Industry Association
1971
Award - L. R. Benjamin Medal received

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions

Book Sections

  • Somerville, J. L., 'Benjamin, Louis Reginald Samuel (1892-1970), chemist and technologist', in Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 7, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1979, p. 264. Also available at http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A070263b.htm. Details

Online Resources

Annette Alafaci