Biographical entry Somerville, John Laird (1899 - 1986)
Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia
- 25 January 1986
John 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.
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.
- Career position - Chemist at the Forest Products Laboratory in Perth
- 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
- Career position - President of the Australian and New Zealand Pulp and Paper Industry Association
- Award - L. R. Benjamin Medal received
Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions
- McCarthy, Gavan; Smith, Ailie; Moje, Christine; Rigby, Rebecca, The Study of Australian Eucalypts, eScholarship Research Centre, 2013, http://www.eoas.info/eucalypts/index.html. Details
- 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
- 'Somerville, John Laird', in Physics in Australia to 1945, R.W. Home, with the assistance of Paula J. Needham, Australian Science Archives Project, June 1995, http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/bsparcs/physics/P002242p.htm. Details
- 'Somerville, John Laird (1899-1986)', Trove, National Library of Australia, 2009, http://nla.gov.au/nla.party-1475682. Details
Created: 29 June 1995, Last modified: 5 March 2018