Obituary – Peter Scholes CEng MIMMM

Fellows' Lounge
30 Sep 2014

Peter Scholes died on 9 August 2014. His metallurgical knowledge, editorial skills and integrity made him respected by all those with whom he had contact during a lifetime of contribution to the steel industry, both nationally and abroad. 

Peter was born 10 September 1927 at Woodseats, in Sheffield. He left school at the age of 15 with a school certificate and went to work as a laboratory assistant at William Jessops Ltd, which was an alloy steels manufacturer. There, Peter progressed to the job of control chemist in the shift laboratory of the steel melting shop. This involved the analysis of complex alloys by wet chemistry, as well as helping out in taking temperature measurements in electric arc and open hearth furnaces.

Determined to enhance his knowledge, Peter studied part-time at the Technical College and later part-time at Sheffield University, where he obtained a degree in Associateship in Ferrous Metallurgy. This was no mean feat, combining shift work with study, but that was the education path of many at that time.

He joined the British Iron and Steel Research Association (BISRA) in 1950, and was seconded from there as a metallurgical chemist to the Bragg Laboratory, part of the Royal Naval Scientific Service. In 1953, with the provision of new facilities, Peter transferred to the Hoyle Street Laboratories of BISRA to set up a microchemistry laboratory for the analysis of oxides and residues. He later worked on various spectroscopic techniques and automation of analytical techniques.

In 1962, Peter was made section head of Analytical Chemistry at BISRA, with responsibility for research into analytical methods. During the 1950s and 1960s, Peter published around 20 papers, either as sole author or in collaboration with others, as well as giving many lectures in the UK and abroad. He built up a strong team with the broad range of skills to develop and apply new methods for the monitoring of chemical composition during the ironmaking and steelmaking process cycles. This was the most productive and satisfying period of Peter’s career, and was also the time when he was admitted to membership of the Institution of Metallurgists and the Royal Institution of Chemistry.

In 1972, BISRA was integrated into the British Steel Corporation, before rationalisation of business and corporate research facilities. These changes resulted in Peter’s section being subsumed and research work was terminated or transferred elsewhere. Peter then undertook special projects on handling of hazardous substances and, in 1981, he was appointed as Personal Assistant to Dr Fitzgerald, who became Managing Director Technical for British Steel Corporation, based at Teesside.

This job was perhaps not as exciting as running a chemistry laboratory, but it broadened Peter’s experience and outlook. This was particularly true with respect to editorial skills, as it was his responsibility to produce Steel Research – a regular review issued by the research function of British Steel.

Following early retirement in 1988, Peter began a new career as a freelance technical editor for annual publications dealing with steel industry processes, including Steel Technology International, Asia Steel and Millennium Steel. Peter also worked closely with Don Spenceley in the production of a published text and disc on The History and Achievements of the British Iron and Steel Research Association. With his computing and editorial skills, Peter was of great assistance to Roy Widdowson and Don Spenceley in an ongoing study to promote the archived proceedings of the Cleveland Institution of Engineers.

Peter’s final achievement was a biography of Dr John Edward Stead FRS (President of the CIE in 1894 and President of the Iron and Steel Institute from 1920–21), an eminent metallurgist in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries in Cleveland. Despite failing health, and with grateful thanks to Jake Almond and other members of the Cleveland Industrial Archaeology Society, this biography was published and is available from the Society as a research report.

Regarding hobbies, Peter was interested in photography, philately and genealogy, but his main passion when young was walking in the Austrian Alps. In 1957, he made a fateful decision to join a walking party on the Italian coast where he met his future wife, Margaret, and they were married the following year. They travelled widely, even during the years of Margaret’s advancing infirmity, and Peter never really recovered from her death in 2011.

Peter died peacefully in James Cook Hospital on Teesside, leaving a dependant sister-in-law, Beryl, who is deaf, and technical colleagues who always telephoned Peter when they had a computing problem and now wished they had taken his advice to absorb what he had told them.