S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Adair, Mr Alfred (Metallurgy, analytical chemistry)

Born: February 1854, Whitehaven, Cumberland, England.
Died: 20 September 1917, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Alfred Adair, chemist and metallurgist, was the son of Joseph Adair and his wife Dorothee, born Davidson. He was in Johannesburg by 1894, when he became a foundation member and served on the first council of the Chemical and Metallurgical Society of South Africa. The society was renamed the Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa when it was revived after the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). In December 1905 Adair delivered a paper before its members on "A new volumetric method for copper and the ores of copper", which was published in its Journal (Vol. 6, pp. 188-190). Perhaps of more importance was a second paper, submitted in May 1908, on "The Adair-Usher process" (Journal, Vol. 8, pp.331-340). As Adair was unwell at this time, he could not deliver it in person. The paper dealt with his experiments using the so-called Usher apparatus in gold recovery. The method depended on the use of umber (a mixture of iron and manganese oxides found in the dolomites of Gauteng) to recover gold from slimes (a suspension of finely crushed ore). He found that the process improved gold recovery, reduced the loss of cyanide, and required a shorter treatment time, compared to alternative methods. By the time the paper was read the process was already fairly widely used on the Witwatersrand, but comments on the paper indicate that it was not found to be a great improvement in practice. Nonetheless the "Adair-Usher process" was described and patented in Johannesburg in 1909.

Adair was still practising as a metallurgist in Johannesburg in 1916. In that year he was granted a United States patent for improvements to photographic apparatus that allowed one to load and unload cameras without the aid of a dark room. He died the next year and was survived by his wife, Harriet Amelia Baylis Adair, born Milward, with whom he had three daughters.

List of sources:
Chemical and Metallurgical Society of South Africa. Proceedings, 1894-1899, Vol. 1-2.

Chemical, Metallurgical and Mining Society of South Africa. Proceedings, 1903, Vol. 3; Journal, 1902-1910, Vol. 3-10.

General Directory of South Africa, 1916.

Google patents, at www.google.com/patents/US1172922

National Archives Repository (TAB), Source MHG, Vol. 0, Ref. 33126: Death notice, Alfred Adair.

Orr, J. Presidential address. Annual Proceedings of the Associated Scientific and Technical Societies of South Africa, 1938, pp.15-86 (see p. 16).

South African Bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Compiled by: C. Plug