The history of IOM3

Materials World magazine
10 May 2019

Katherine Williams takes a look at how IOM3 has grown from the Iron and Steel Institute to become a representative body of more than 20 divisions in 2019.

In 2019, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) is an international organisation with a membership that circles the globe. If we could turn parts of the map IOM3 red, much like the pink of Queen Victoria’s Empire, few countries would not show red.

While our 2019 headquarters are in London, in 1869 the then Duke of Devonshire, the first President of the Iron and Steel Institute (ISI), described Middlesbrough ‘as the birth place and cradle of the Institute’. Jonathan Jones of that town was the first to suggest the formation of such a body, and apparently discussed the proposal with four local friends during 1868. He became the first ISI Secretary in 1869.

Middlesbrough, predominantly an iron and steel town, rang with the names of leading men in local industry and in the Institute - the Bells, Gjers, Whitwells, and others. These were the founders and owners of iron- and steelworks on Teesside.

However, the focus of these men was far from parochial – in 1871 they sent a group to the USA to investigate the latest technologies being used there, and by 1873 they organised a trip to Belgium to exchange information with European colleagues.

Members of international renown at this time included William Siemens and Henry Bessemer, with the Bessemer medal being established in 1873. The document granting Bessemer his patent for improvements in the iron and steel industry still hangs outside the Bessemer Room at IOM3 headquarters at 297 Euston Road. The Institute’s first Royal Charter was granted in 1899.

By 1887 the National Association of Colliery Managers had been established. This group (incorporated by Royal Charter in 1928), along with The Institute of Mining Engineers (founded in 1889) would later become The Institution of Mining Engineers (IMinE). Next to come into existence, in 1892, was the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy (IMM), which, along with IMinE, gained a Royal Charter in 1915.

War of ages

IMM has several claims to fame. Herbert Hoover – later to become the 31st President of the USA - falsified his age to become a member of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy in 1897. However, the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers, mostly manned by colliers and sewer-workers were officered by professional mining engineers, many of whom were IMM members. The Companies are perhaps most well known for underground warfare and the explosion at the Battle of Messines, Belgium, in 1917 when the enemy lines were swallowed by a huge explosion from below. Vital roles followed in the Second World War and in post-war reconstruction.

The dawn of the 20th Century saw the formation of the North Staffordshire Ceramic Society, which became the English Ceramic Society in 1903 and the Cermaic Society in 1916 before rebirth as The British Ceramic Society in 1938, the Institute of Ceramics (IoC) came into being in 1955.

Differences in metallurgical practices in the non-ferrous industry brought about the formation of Institute of Metals (IoM), in 1908. This was also the year the first Ford Model T car was sold and cellophane was invented.

The following year saw the birth of The Association of Mining Electrical Engineers (AMEE). This organisation underwent a name change in 1941, becoming The Association of Mining Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (AMEME) before again switching name in 1983 to The Institution of Mining Electrical and Mining Mechanical Engineers (IMEMME).

The Rubber Club of Great Britain was established in 1921 and subsequently sought a more organised and formal structure, becoming the Institution of the Rubber Industry 1923. In 1927, Lord Colwyn made provision for the Colwyn medal recognising outstanding services to the rubber industry. In addition, in 1931 The Institute of the Plastics Industry was formed to represent this field. A name change in 1947 produced The Plastics Institute. The Swinburne Award was established in 1959. A union of these groups in 1975 formed the Plastics and Rubber Institute.

The National Association of Clayworks Managers came into existence in 1927, originally with an emphasis on management and production matters. It expanded its remit in 1947 as the Institute of Clay Technology to embrace various disciplines from materials extraction, through to production, marketing, finance, administration, management and strategy.

In 1934, a group of enthusiastic enamellers got together to share knowledge and to provide information about vitreous enamel, and thus, the Institute of Vitreous Enamellers (IVE) was born. There was already an Institute in the USA, but IVE was the first in Europe. A number of IOM3 predecessor organisations have presidential regalia featuring vitreous enamel work.

During the First and Second World Wars, metallurgy benefitted from the military demands for improved armour plate, better steam turbines, and alloys for aircraft and radio communications. Thus, 1945 saw the creation of the Institution of Metallurgists to promote and preserve the professional identity and interests of this group. This group set up the Institute of Metallurgical Technicians in 1973. A Royal Charter was given in 1975 and two years later it became the 16th corporate member of the Council of Engineering Institutions - a forerunner of the Engineering Council. It should also be noted that the Institution of Metallurgists was keen to point out that, ‘women have proved eminently successful in the metallurgical profession for more than a century’, as quoted in A History of the Institution of Metallurgists 1945-1984 by E G West.

Launched at the Waldorf Hotel in London in 1947, The Institute of Packaging (IOP) has seen great changes in packaging technology, including self service shopping, convenience foods, microwavable packs and a war on plastic. Education and training was always a focus for IOP and in December 1949 a fact-finding team visited the USA, and by 1950 the first courses were being offered. The Starpack Awards Scheme was launched in 1960 and is still going strong.

The Institute of Wood Science is rooted in 1955, and became a registered charity in 1998. Covering timber, wood-based materials and associated timber processes and products, the original Memorandum of Association stated, ‘to advance public education in the study of wood and allied subjects in furtherance of the advancement of technical, scientific, practical and general knowledge in the subject’.

A working party, set up by the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 1963 became the Materials Science Club. This group of engineers and scientists working with and on materials were drawn from industry and academia. The Science Club acted as an informal body, sharing ideas about and understanding of materials, bringing together specialists from different areas to encourage an integrated approach and common language. The Griffith medal and Leslie Holliday prize originate here.

Change all round

In 1969, the lease to 1 Carlton House Terrace (1CHT) was given to ISI on the basis that the Institute renovate the building, addressing bomb damage and disrepair. By 1970, the Institute of Metals and The Iron and Steel Institute were in talks about merging. In 1972, alongside IoM, ISI moved into 1CHT. The two formally merged, thus forming The Metals Society in January 1974 and harmonising ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

In a confusing twist, the merger of the Metals Society with the Institution of Metallurgists in 1985 created the (imaginatively named) Institute of Metals, which absorbed the Materials Science Club and the Institute of Metallurgical Technicians, and then, through associated mergers in 1992, become the Institute of Materials.

The amalgamation of the British Ceramic Society and the Institute of Ceramics resulted in another Institute of Ceramics in 1986. The moves behind this merger were to avoid duplication and provide a single voice on ceramics.

The 1992 recipe for the Institute of Materials (IoM) involved the Institute of Metals (mentioned above), the British Composites Society (formed in 1986 as the first body of its kind in the UK, based on similar organisations in Japan, USA and Europe), The Plastics and Rubber Institute and the Institute of Ceramics. This move gave us our office in Stoke-on-Trent, Shelton House, the home of the Institute of Ceramics, and the office in Hobart Place, London, which was later sold.

The modern Institute

Members saw the first issue of Materials World in 1993 the same year and the Pentium processor was invented – we leave it to readers to decide which event was more momentous. In 1997, Dr Bernie Rickinson had been appointed Chief Executive of the Institute.

The Institution of Mining and Metallurgy (IMM) formed in 1998, encompassing IMinE, IMEMME and IMM members. IMinE and IMM had been closely aligned for many years, sharing offices and a library and having come close to merging at various times in their history. Jane Plant became the first female President of IMM in 2001.

IOM3 was formed, in June 2002, from the union of IoM and IMM in June 2002 bringing together the organisations that address the materials cycle from cradle to grave. Subsequently IOM3 also came to incorporate the Institute of Packaging (2005) and the Institute of Clay Technology (2006). In the summer of 2009, an agreement was reached with the Institute of Wood Science to transfer all its members and activities to IOM3. In November 2010, IOM3 also embraced the activities and membership of the Institute of Vitreous Enamellers.

The Institute moved in 2015 from 1 Carlton House Terrace to more modern headquarters at 297 Euston Road and in 2016 the European Association for Brazing and Soldering and the Titanium Information Group joined the IOM3 fold brining IOM3 to its modern form.

Common themes for all our predecessors have been the advancement and development of the materials fields to the public benefit. IOM3 and predecessor organisations has welcomed people of all nationalities and from many disciplines, pursued the provision of courses and educational meetings, publication of periodicals and books and the sharing of research and development as well as setting professional standards.  Fortunately, the organisation appears to have moved on from an obsession with golf that appeared common to many previous incarnations.

It remains poignant that when inaugurating the Institute of Metals in 1985, the Rt Hon Peter Walker MP said that if Britain was to succeed, then it would be due to the quality of its knowledge and research. In this anniversary year as the materials sector looks forward this message of value in knowledge holds true for all.

We continue to embrace novel materials and technologies, just as the dynamic men of the Iron and Steel Institute did. Today, the role of women is far more visible and IOM3 has its first female President in Serena Best. We also welcomed a new CEO, Colin Church, towards the end of 2018. Much has changed since 1869 and we remain enthused by the possibilities of future discoveries.