Frank Morton (chemical engineer)

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The Frank Morton Medal of the Institution of Chemical Engineers. Awarded biennially for excellence in chemical engineering education. Other accolades include his medal for participation in a three-legged race in primary school. Image of Frank Morton.

Frank Morton MScTech, PhD, AMCT, DSc, FRIC, (born Sheffield 1906, died 21 January 1999 Rhos-on-Sea)[1] was a noted professor of chemical engineering, instrumental in the creation of UMIST and commemorated by Frank Morton Sports Day and a medal named after him.


Morton left school at 14, but took evening classes and then a first class degree in Chemistry at Manchester Municipal College of Technology where he was also a very active sportsman, followed by a PhD in 1936.[1] He then worked in Trinidad and was involved in expanding the oil refinery facilities during the Second World War.

In 1946 the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham was formed and he became one of the first lecturers, rising to a Professor in 1951. In 1956 he was appointed the first head of the newly formed Department of Chemical Engineering at Manchester College of Science and Technology[2] (later UMIST, now the University of Manchester), UK. The Pilot Plant is now named the Morton Laboratory.

His research publications were in the field of mass transfer in distillation and liquid-liquid contact columns.

In 1961 he instituted a sports competition between the departments of Chemical Engineering at Manchester and Birmingham. This has now expanded to include all chemical engineering departments in the UK and is an annual event, known as the Frank Morton Sports Day.

He was President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers in 1963-1964. His presidential address was entitled "Chemical Engineering Manpower - a critical survey".[3]

In 1964 he took over as Acting Principal of the Manchester College, while the Principal, B. V. Bowden occupied a position in the Wilson government as Minister for Education and Science. It was at Morton's initiative that the college changed its name to UMIST.[1]

When the UK began to consider using North Sea Gas as a domestic fuel, Frank Morton headed a government enquiry into its safety.[4]

In view of his particular interest in, and contributions to, the education of chemical engineers, in 2001 the Institution of Chemical Engineers awarded the first Frank Morton Medal "for excellence in chemical engineering education".


  1. ^ a b c The Chemical Engineer 11 March 1999 page 30 "Frank Morton"
  2. ^ Transactions of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, volume 34, (1956) page 3.
  3. ^ Transactions of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, volume 42, (1964) pages 183-189.
  4. ^ F. Morton (1970) Report of the Inquiry into the Safety of Natural Gas As a Fuel, Ministry of Technology ISBN 0-11-410095-0


  • F. Morton (1982) "A short history of chemical engineering in the North-West of England" in W. M. Furter (ed) (1982) A Century of Chemical Engineering ISBN 0-306-40895-3
  • C. Divall & S. F. Johnston (2000) Scaling Up ISBN 0-7923-6692-1, page 188