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British Industrial History

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Robert Robertson (1869-1949)

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Sir Robert Robertson (1869–1949), chemist and explosives expert

1869 born at Cupar, Fife, son of John Alexander Robertson, dentist, and his wife, Euphemia.

Educated at Madras Academy, Cupar, and St Andrews University,

1890 graduated in both arts and science

Worked in the laboratory of the Glasgow city analyst.

1892 Appointed to the staff of the Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham Abbey, where the military were in the process of introducing smokeless nitro-compounds as replacements for black powder. He made a study of the chemistry of nitrocellulose and ethylene glycol dinitrate, and successfully incorporated the results into his doctoral thesis at St Andrews in 1897.

1900 Appointed chemist in charge of the laboratory of the factory, developed improvements in explosive munitions.

1903 married Kathleen Stannus

1907 Appointed superintending chemist of the research department at Woolwich Arsenal

WWI Responsible for the development of the manufacture and use of TNT, and of the explosive mixture ‘amatol’, which made possible a much larger and cheaper supply of high explosive.

1917 Elected FRS

1918 Appointed KBE in 1918

1921 Appointed government chemist. The work of his department expanded considerably in the following decade.

1923 Received the honorary degree of LLD from St Andrews University.

1936 After his retirement Robertson continued his experimental work at the Royal Institution, of which he was treasurer.

1937 he became director of the Salters' Institute of Industrial Chemistry.

WWII Robertson rejoined the research department at Woolwich and was placed in charge of a major branch at University College, Swansea, where he directed general chemical work on explosives.

1949 Died in London.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Sir Robert Robertson, ODNB