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British Industrial History

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Alexander Duckham

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Dr Alexander Duckham (1877-1945), FCS, FIPT, PhD Heidelberg

1877 Born in Greenwich, London, son of Frederic Eliot Duckham

1881 Living at White House, Vanbrugh Fields, Greenwich: Fredk. Eliot Duckham (age 39 born Falmouth), Civil Engineer. With his wife Maud Mary Duckham (age 31 born Manchester) and their children; Fredk. Wm. Duckham (age 5 born Blackheath); Alex R. Duckham (age 4 born Blackheath); Arthur McDougall Duckham (age 1 born Blackheath); and Jane Duckham (age 3 months born Blackheath). Three servants.[1]

1899 Established business as an oil merchant (Alexander Duckham and Co)

1901 Manufacturing chemist, employer, living with his parents in Lewisham[2]

c.1900 As Alexander Duckham was completing his University career, Sir Alfred Yarrow recognised the almost complete lack of scientific method in the practice of lubrication, and advised Duckham to specialise in the study of lubrication; he even helped by introducing him to engineering firms having problems to solve. These included the cause and curing of deposits in electrical transformers and in the oil systems of turbines, the application of emulsion of oil and water to machine tools which require the combination of cooling and lubrication, the cure of the epidemic of skin diseases among operatives using petroleum oil, the surmounting of electrolytic corrosion of ball bearings, the preparation of homogeneous non-separating greases, the evolution of oils not subject to emulsification.

Duckham gathered round him a staff of engineers and chemists, and was soon able to delegate to them consultative work on the problems of the individual consumers, and so was able to give almost undivided attention to the production side of the business. For some years the laboratory was his private activity, separate from the oil and chemical business.

1902 Married Violet Ethel Narraway[3]

1905 Oil merchant when he joined the Masons[4]

1905 At the instigation of Yarrow and of Lord Fisher, Duckham devoted himself to discovering petroleum within British territory, and in 1905 was a pioneer in the development of the Trinidad oil fields, including a deposit of high-class crude oil suitable as a base for the preparation of lubricants.

1911 Living at Vanbrugh Castle, Westcombe Park, Blackheath: Alexander Duckham (age 34 born Greenwich), Chemist and company director and employer. With his wife Violet Ethel Duckham (age 31 born Greenwich) and their four children; Alec Narraway Duckham (age 7 born Greenwich); Millicent A. M. Duckham (age 6 born Greenwich); Joan Ethel Duckham (age 5 born Greenwich); and Jack Eliot Duckham (age 3 born Greenwich). Five servants. [5]

WWI Deputy Director General of Ordnance Supply in the Ministry of Munitions

1920 Gave Vanbrugh Castle, Blackheath as a school for the sons of Airmen.

1940 Gave Rooks Hill, Sevenoaks to the RAF Benevolent Fund together with £1000/year for maintenance.

Chairman and Governing director of Alexander Duckham and Co and Trinidad Central Oil Fields

1945 Died in London.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1881 Census
  2. 1901 census
  3. Parish record
  4. Freemason Membership Registers
  5. 1911 census
  • The Times, Feb 03, 1945