• Alan Pengelly, former IFRF Investigator

    Date posted:

    • Post Author


Alan Pengelly, former IFRF Investigator, 1928 – 2006

Alan Pengelly, who was a resident investigator in the fourth team at IJmuiden, died of a heart attack on 28th August 2006.  He graduated in physics at Leeds University in 1951 and after five years at GEC was appointed to the post of physicist at IJmuiden in April 1956. From then until 1958 he was mainly engaged in the development of a suite of specialist instruments and sensors for the  measurement of flame properties.  Also in that period he gained a mastery of colloquial French and a good knowledge of the Dutch language (He was the only man I knew who could swear very effectively in three languages!).

After IJmuiden Alan was appointed head of the Fuel & Furnace Research Section at United Steel’s Swinden Laboratories in Rotherham. It was the start of a coming together at Swinden Labs. of personalities and technical know-how – including computer facilities – that changed irrevocably process plant investigation in United Steel and arguably throughout the  European steel industry. Pengelly brought from IFRF  instruments and sensors  which allowed accurate and detailed measurements to be made on full scale plant in day to day operations, thus providing a firm basis for cold model studies of flame and gas flow patterns and mathematical models of heat transfer in plant, which led to improved thermal performance, better product quality and increased throughput. As well as the instruments he brought the know-how for their manufacture and new ways of working. Full-scale, round-the-clock trials on production plant with instruments of bespoke design became the norm, with the trials teams and sensors housed on site in a mobile laboratory. For the next 15 years or so Swinden Laboratories was unsurpassed in this type of work.

In 1965  Pengelly left United Steel to become Process Engineering Development Manager for British Aluminium. However he seemed destined not to be long in aluminium, remarking on occasion that it was not very exciting and that unlike steel it never looked hot –  even when it was molten! So it was not surprising that in 1971 he returned to British Steel Corporation to set up new  laboratories on Teesside.

However, in 1976 Alan decided that his future lay in consulting, and he moved to WS Atkins as Director and Head of Metallurgical and Minerals Division, where he worked on plant designs and installations at home and overseas. He continued this work after his retirement from Atkins, setting up his own consultancy, Technicon. He never actually stopped working and recently had been organising a Conference for the Institute of Physics which encapsulates the ethos of his working life, ‘Physics and Engineering, Synergy for Success’, shortly to be held in London.

As a student in Leeds he was a champion swimmer and played rugby union football as a forward for the Universities Athletic Union; after University he played for the Wasps and when at IJmuiden formed a team which played probably the first game in Holland. He was an enthusiastic squash player, in most games no quarter being asked or given, so it is not surprising given his build that he eventually needed a hip replacement. This was not successful and for a time he devoted himself with workers at the IoMMM and at Queen Mary, University of London, to the design of prostheses and setting up  a National Hip Arthroplasty Register for collection of data on their performance. It was typical of the man; he made things happen.  Never able to ignore a challenge set by himself or others, he died after swimming a long distance from a boat offshore. That is probably how he would have wished it to end; he was not growing old gracefully.

Frank Fitzgerald

3rd October 2006