Sydney William Smith, C.B.E., died in London on 30th January, 1963, at the age of 84.

He trained at the Royal School of Mines from 1896 to 1899, and gained the A.R.S.M. in metallurgy. He was awarded the B.Sc. degree of London University in 1902, and the D.Sc. in 1917.

Dr. Smith was engaged for three years from 1899 to 1902 as Assistant to Sir William Roberts-Austen in connection with the work of the Alloys Research Committee of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He joined the staff of the Royal Mint in 1902 and held the position of assistant assayer for 24 years. He was made Chief Assayer in 1926 and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1938. During the war years 1940-45 he was Assistant Director of the Department of Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines.

He was elected to Membership of the Institution in 1908 and served on the Council continuously for a total of 28 years. He held office as Vice-President for the period 1929-32 and was President for the session 1932-33.

He worked on many committees throughout his long service with the Institution and was their representative at the Annual Convention of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy held in Toronto in April, 1933. He represented Institution on the Non-Ferrous Industry Committee of the British Standards Institution and was a member of the Joint Committee for establishing National Certificates in Metallurgy in 1944-45.

In recognition of these and his many other services to the Institution, Dr. Smith was elected to Honorary Membership in 1949.

Apart from his Presidential Address, and his Address at Toronto, April, 1933, the following papers by Dr. Smith have been published in the Transactions of the Institution: ‘The behaviour of tellurium in assaying’ (vol. 17, 1907-08); ‘Liquation in molten alloys and its possible geological significance’ (vol. 35, 1925-26) for which he was awarded ‘The Consolidated Gold Fields of South Africa, Limited’ Gold Medal and Premium for 1926; and ‘Note on a seventeenth-century discourse on tin as a national asset’ (vol. 45, 1935-36). He read a number of papers to the Institute of Metals and compiled and edited ‘Roberts-Austen — a record of his work’.

Dr. Smith received the Honorary D.Sc., University of the Witwatersrand and was a Fellow of the Chemical Society, Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry, Member of the Institute of Metals (he was a past chairman of their London Local Section), Fellow of the Institution of Metallurgists since 1946, and a member of other bodies. He was President of the Royal School of Mines Old Students’ Association in 1928-29, and was elected a Fellow of Imperial College in 1941.

For public services he received the honour of C.B.E. in 1933.

Dr. J.H. Watson writes: Dr. Smith was a strong traditionalist; but while he would scrutinize all innovations with a sternly critical eye, he was never reluctant to admit them on their merits. This traditionalism led him to a keen interest in the history — especially the recent history — of metallurgy, and his work on Roberts-Austen, in addition to being a biography of one of the outstanding metallurgists of his time, provides a conspectus of metallurgical knowledge in the last half of the nineteenth century. There was scarcely anyone or anything connected, however indirectly, with his profession that he did not know about: and if he did not know, he would certainly know where to look for the information. He also had to a marked degree the ability to see both sides of the question, which made his critical judgement invaluable.

But perhaps his outstanding characteristic was kindness. He was for many years and until his death a member of the Institution’s Benevolent Fund Management Committee, its Chairman in 1938-39 and its Hon. Secretary from 1945 to 1961. He coupled an encyclopaedic knowledge of the petitioners and their resources with a deep humanitarian reaction to their needs and desires. Nothing was too much trouble for him, and this principle he carried out in his relations to all those who came his way and sought his help.

By his death the Institution has lost a most devoted and loyal servant and its members have lost a kind and understanding friend whom they will always remember with real affection.

Vol. 72, Trans I.M.M., 1962-63, pp.679-80

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