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Victor Stobie

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Victor Stobie (1880-1941), founder of the Stobie Steel Co

1941 Obituary [1]

VICTOR STOBIE was born in Birmingham on the 28th July, 1880, but, his father being the European representative for Thos. Firth and Sons, his childhood was spent in Paris. The fact that he received his early schooling at the ecole St. Maure had a pronounced effect on his character throughout life, for it endowed him with that appreciation of Latin logic so characteristic of the French educational system. His essentially British origin, however, made him a true individualist, for though he had financial associates in some of his undertakings, he never had either a co-director or a partner.

After 3 years at the Central Higher School in Sheffield (from 1893 to 1896), he attended lectures at the local University College, where he studied both electrical engineering and metallurgy.

After 4 years' practical training at a Sheffield steelworks, he started business on his own account in 1906, trading as the Sheffield Annealing Works Co., a business devoted to the heat-treatment of steel bars. In connection with this business he experimented upon the reduction of tungsten and chromium from high-speed steel mill-scale, and soon realized that in order to continue this work an electric furnace would be essential.

About this time a London concern bought the British rights of the Swedish furnace invented by Grunwall, Stalhane and Lindblat, later well-known as the Electrometals furnace. Stobie redesigned the plant and installed one of 30 cwt. capacity in his works, creating a new company - the Stobie Steel Co. - for this purpose. This pioneer effort was not an immediate success and, selling his works, he removed to Dunston-on-Tyne in 1913, where he installed a plant of very considerable dimensions: two furnaces of 10 tons' and one of 3 tons' capacity. The new furnaces were designed upon his own patents, and after a period of teething troubles were an outstanding success.

The last war ensured that the plant could work to full capacity, but on the cessation of hostilities his career as a steel manufacturer virtually finished.

Amongst the more outstanding of his inventions was the electrode economizer, in the development of which the writer of this notice shared. In its original or improved forms, it is now standard equipment on all electrode furnaces. Its details were described in a paper read in 1919 at a joint meeting of The Institution and the Iron and Steel Institute.

He joined The Institution in the following year as an Associate Member, and was elected a Member in 1929. Since the last war he had widened his interests and was granted a number of patents on such diverse subjects as high-frequency steel-melting furnaces, the stereoscopic projection of cinema pictures, an electric moulding machine and, immediately prior to his death on the 31st December, 1940, a "hose-pipe" system of ramming moulds. Though possessing but little practical experience of foundry work, he was intensely interested in the processes involved, and in recognition of his 20 years of continuous and enthusiastic support he was elected President of the Institute of British Foundrymen in 1932. He was a brilliant linguist and possessed much personal charm; whilst his contributions to the science of electrometallurgy were of such a character that his name will go down in history as a pioneer of outstanding eminence.

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