Character Number Five

And then there was Geoff Haselden.

My undergraduate life started in 1944 in the Chemical Engineering Department of Imperial College in London. I should have graduated with a B. Sc. in 1948 as the top 50% of my class did but I was in the bottom 50% and we lost our deferment from the military draft as soon as the war ended in May 1945.  We were very promptly drafted to make room for the influx of returning soldiers, sailors and airmen who all had the British equivalent of the G.I. Bill, giving them money for four years of college.  We draftees served our King and Country for a two year term, me in the Army, and only a minority returned to college to complete their degree. Those that did, including me also got four years of college money and in my remaining two years, one of the subjects that fascinated me was the low temperature technology as explained to us by Professor Geoffrey Gordon Haselden.  I knew he was young compared to our other profs but it was quite a bit later before I found he was only three years older than me.  He graduated in 1944 and got his Ph D. only two years later and he was made the head of the new low temperature lab.  I was intrigued by the ability to separate the component gases of a complex mixture by using low temperature technology and when I graduated in 1950 with two years of money left, I decided that I wanted to do research in Prof. Haselden’s lab.  Another reason is that I had become good friends with Roger Sargent who was in the upper 50% of my initial class and who was already doing low temperature research.  He and I had already agreed to share a basement apartment in Chelsea and when Prof. Haselden had suggested that I could do some work related to what Roger was doing I was happy to comply.

The guidance and encouragement that I received from Geoff was a major factor in me getting my Ph.D. in 1954. He helped me get additional financing from British Oxygen Company when my army money ended and Roger and I both shared a personal relationship with both Geoff and his wife Eileen.  We were invited to their home for a tea party and this included our girl-friends Doris and Shirley.  We were also invited to take our dirty laundry and wash it in their new washing machine.  (In 1946, washing machines were only just becoming available in private homes).  We learned that Geoff was also a lay preacher in his Methodist Church   When Doris and I got married in 1951, Geoff and Eileen came to our wedding and when we emmigrated to North America in 1954 we kept in touch.

When we were living in Rowayton, Connecticut, I had told Geoff about the United Church of Rowayton and its remarkable new and different place of worship and Geoff replied that he would be thrilled to conduct a service in our church. A year or so later, Geoff told us he had been invited to give a speech at Columbia  University and he hoped to see us while he was in the States.  We invited him to stay with us and I told our pastor, Don Emig about Geoff’s wish to give a service in our church.  I put the two of them together and Don Emig told me it was all arranged.  Geoff arrived during a heat wave and he quickly agreed to go to the beach with us on the Saturday.  He changed in our beach club house and while Doris and I were sitting on the beach, our beach super-intendant came running up to me saying that we had to get our guest off the beach because people were complaining.  He had put on a European type mono-kini of very brief proportions and I had to find him and get him covered up.  The next day, Sunday, Geoff was suitably clad, giving an excellent sermon but I was not allowed to forget the incident.  My neighbor, Russ Shafer in particular enjoyed saying our friend was run off the beach for indecent exposure and showed up the next day in the pulpit.

Geoffrey’s cryogenic lab got international recognition for the pioneering work done there and in 1960, at the age of 35, he was appointed as the Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Leeds University. He continued a career, encouraging students and developing the art of his profession in his articulate and understanding way.  He died in 2007 at the age of 82 and was mourned by his wife, Eileen, his three daughters and the staff and faculty of the University.

3 thoughts on “Character Number Five

  1. As always, a neat story about a notable person. By the way, I got my start in Cryogenics at Air Products in June 1956. When I got to Allentown, PA. with my fresh B.Ch.E. I was asked if I’d prefer process or project engineering as my assignment. I immediately chose projects, because I preferred manufacture/construction, rather than the tedious calculations that were required back in the days of the slide rule. Little did I know that I’d have to learn a lot of Mechanical Engineering on the job. And, so it began.

    Looks like you are doing well and being productive in your literary pursuit. Keep them coming.


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