It is with great sadness that we heard about the passing of Ted Adlard. Ted, a former Chairman of the Chromatographic Society, has been an inspiration to many chromatographers throughout his life-time and will be sadly missed.
Edward Radcliffe (Ted) Adlard was born in Liverpool on December 5th 1927. He attended a grammar school in Liverpool which laid claim to being the first school of its kind in the UK to have science in its curriculum. Even up to the 1940s grammar schools were heavily biased towards the education of the Classics, with the grammar of their title being associated with Greek and Latin grammar.
On leaving school Ted went into the Army where he attained the rank of sergeant and learnt the “useful” trade of disposing of unexploded bombs: Surviving this experience – more by good luck than good management – he attended Liverpool University and ended up with two degrees – a Pass Degree in Physics and an Honours Degree in Organic Chemistry.
He left university in 1952 without continuing his studies to a higher degree, mainly because he found the world of academia pleasant but unexciting, particularly with reference to his role in the army. He then secured employment at one of Shell’s major research centres which was undergoing a period of rapid expansion at a time of great confidence in the future of the oil industry. The Thornton Research Centre, employed about 1000 people from all disciplines and could almost be considered a university in its own right. In this period from 1950 to about 1965 financial and intellectual restraints were minimal and within limits scientists had a free hand. Ted states that this environment led to him learning more at Thornton than during all his preceding formal education, since there were experts in just about every conceivable scientific and technological subject, who were all keen to collaborate.
Ted started his career at Thornton as a member of an organic synthesis group and was given the task of preparing ferrocene by several unlikely routes which could, if necessary, be patented. His efforts in this direction resulted in him being nicknamed “Prometheus” but his successful attempts to purify the tarry products by liquid chromatography led management to decide that he would be an ideal candidate to work on the new technique of gas chromatography. In September 1952 he packed his first GC column, and this was truly a golden period of time not just for Ted but also GC. The advances in GC came along with such speed that a discussion forum was established by Desty and others. This was the origin of the first international symposium on the topic in London in 1956 and the Gas Chromatography Discussion Group (now The Chromatographic Society) soon after. Ted’s involvement in the GC Discussion Group and also various international conferences on GC meant that there were very few workers in the field that were not aware of him. Ted retired from Shell in 1985, and at this point was probably one of the two or three world-leading experts in the field of gas chromatography. To his disappointment he never became practically involved in the development of HPLC.
He joined the Gas Chromatography Discussion Group at its inception and in 1961, at the invitation of Howard Purnell, he joined the Executive Committee and has been a member in various capacities ever since – Secretary, Vice-chairman, Chairman (twice), Editor of the Abstracts and Programme Secretary. It was under his firm leadership as Chairman in 1972 that the Group became an independent organisation at a time when its future existence was in danger.
His publications cover nearly all aspects of GC from fundamental studies on solution theory, and petroleum analysis, to detectors and environmental studies. His work in this latter field led to him becoming an expert on crude oil composition and had significant repercussions for those involved in geochemical studies. His perfectionist approach and the constraints of industrial research, where an approximate answer is often required quickly rather than a complete answer over a long period, means that his publications are relatively few in number. An example of his unpublished work relates to the first use of GCMS in Europe, a technique that at the time was dogged with issues but today is seen as the workhorse of many analytical laboratories. In spite of relatively few publications, there can be no doubt about his influence on many people and his behind-the-scenes activities have made an outstanding contribution to chromatography, and it is a testament to his activities supporting the chromatographic community that he has been awarded a Martin Medal and is also a holder of the Tswett Medal of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. In more recent years the Chromatographic Society have named a travel bursary for up and coming industrialist after him.
Ted has been a true inspiration to many separation scientists and has helped many develop their careers. He will be very much missed by the world of chromatography. However, at this time our thoughts go out to his wife and children.