Experts in filtration and separation

We advance and disseminate knowledge in the design and use of filtration and separation techniques in industry, commerce and other walks of life.

Society history

Written in April 2004 as part of the Society’s 40th Anniversary, this is a journey back in time that charts briefly the history of The Filtration Society, from the vision of one person, through its formation and growth through the enthusiasm of many people, to what it is today. In 1964 it was a unique Society that subsequently inspired the creation of similar organisations in other countries around the world.

Towards Formation of a Society

On 8 July 1964, at the invitation of the Editor of the magazine Filtration (formed in 1964 by combining Filters and Filtration Engineering & Technology), a meeting was held at 5 Belgrave Square in London to discuss the feasibility of forming a Filtration Society in Britain. Just over 40 people attended, representing as many companies in the filtration industry. In the discussions that followed an outline of the Editor’s vision of a Society based on Commission Filtration in France, a specialist group of the Association Nationale de la Recherche Technique, arguments both for and against the formation of such a Society were put forward. The general opinion that emerged was that many aspects of filtration knowledge were being neglected and that a technical society – not a trade association – might well perform a very useful function, particularly if it embraced users of filtration as well as designers and manufacturers of equipment and media.

Bill Norris, the Editor of Filtration, was instrumental in the formation of The Filtration Society.

A vote was taken on the motion that “A Committee be formed to study the practicability of forming a Filtration Society”. The motion was carried by a large majority and the Editor of Filtration called for volunteers to constitute the Committee. The Committee formed was composed of:

  • P. Sweet (Fairey Engineering Ltd.)
  • R. Palmer (Palmer Aero Products Ltd.)
  • D.G. Hill (Air Control Installations Ltd.)
  • L.W. English (Auto-Klean Strainers Ltd.)
  • R.V. Shears (Locker Industries Ltd.)
  • J.A. Hooton (S.H. Johnson & Co. Ltd.)
  • P. Bailey (B. Thornton Ltd.)
  • W.G. Norris (Editor, Filtration)
  • J.W. Price (Organiser, Filtech International)

The Committee met on 10 August and was joined by H.K. Suttle from Loughborough College of Technology. The conclusions of their discussions were that a Society should be formed, that its name should be The Filtration Society, and that it should be “a technical Society which exists to advance knowledge of filtration, separation and clarification engineering and processes”. The Committee further proposed that if the society is formed it should have three major objectives:

  1. To hold meetings for the dissemination of knowledge of filtration, separation, clarification and related processes;
  2. To recommend methods of testing and evaluating equipment and products;
  3. To study the requirement for the foundation of an institute devoted to filtration technology.

The society should be open to individuals who are users, manufacturers or otherwise interested in filtration, separation and clarification.

The main conclusion, together with proposals for the constitution of the officers of the Committee, subscriptions, and so on, were presented to a general meeting of those interested on 6 October 1964. Over 120 people attended and The Filtration Society was duly formed – 60 members were enrolled on the spot!

The First Year

Approximate eighty members attended the inaugural meeting of the Filtration Society held on 9 February at Belgrave Square. Two papers were presented, the first on Particle Size Analysis by B. Scarlett of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Loughborough College of Technology, and the second on High Efficiency Air Filtration by J.E. Firman, a consultant in ventilation and air filtration. The first Chairman of the Society, H.K. Suttle, opened the meeting and introduced the two vice-chairmen – K.J. Ives, a Reader (later Professor) in Civil and Municipal Engineering, University College London, and L.W. English, Technical Director at Auto-Klean Strainers Ltd.

Harold Suttle - the first Chairman of The Filtration Society.

The first Annual General Meeting of the Society was held on 14 October 1965 at the Royal Society of Health in London. This was a major step in the Society’s development as it presented the first opportunity for the membership to debate and approve the proposed Bye-Laws of the Society and to elect Committee Members for 1965-66. Fifteen candidates had been nominated for five vacancies – the elected members were:

  • D.A. Bennell
  • J.E. Firman
  • A.G. Robertson
  • P.L. Pocock
  • D.B. Purchas
  • W.G. Norris
  • J.W. Price
  • C.W. Hawkes
  • D. McLean Wyllie

In his retiring Chairman’s address, Harold Suttle noted that “…. Invention, engineering skills, and, especially, the proliferation of constructional materials, have created machines which perform their specific duties at a satisfactory efficiency. …. A re-appraisal of technological processes must be made if certainty (in design and operation) is to replace empiricism …. Development (of filter equipment) must proceed along with enquiry into the exact nature of natural processes …. (to) yield information which is directly useful to the manufacturer, or designer …. the Filtration Society exists to provide a means for the continuous dissemination of knowledge applicable to a special field ……” and concluded with “The Society is intended to serve in just this manner, by discussion and, it is sincerely hoped, the establishment eventually of programmes on investigation and fundamental research by industry through the medium of our Society. It may be that the establishment of one or more centres, outside London, would encourage the growth of ideas.”. As will be seen, the Society has largely followed these original guiding principles and would develop to become an international organisation.

In 1964, the Society staged a three day meeting at Filtech International at Earls Court in London. The name of the magazine Filtration was changed to Filtration & Separation and arrangements were made with the publisher to enable all members to receive the new journal regularly. The journal was adopted for publication of the Proceedings of The Filtration Society, an arrangement that was to continue until 1999.

Growth and Consolidation

Membership of the Society grew rapidly. The Society expanded in the UK and overseas through the development of Chapters in North America, Europe and Asia.

On 19 December 1966, Frank Tiller convened a group of Texas based filter people on the University of Houston campus, and the Texas Chapter was soon formed. Initial Chapter activities were modest, but drew wide attention and recognition. Soon individuals from elsewhere followed Frank Tiller’s vision as leaders and pioneers to form local Chapters of the Society across America. They included Stan Lindberg in 1967 in Chicago, Larry Avery in New York in 1968, and Wells Shoemaker in Pennsylvania. As local Chapters sprouted, naturally the focus of Chapters that were geographically remote from the UK was less on the Society but more on local Chapter activities, fellowship and education. In the early 1970’s Tiller and Shoemaker organised and ran joint AIChE / Filtration Society Conferences.

Wells Shoemaker saw an opportunity to form other Chapters of the Society and began efforts around the country. In 1972, he formed the Delaware Valley Chapter with Jim Flood as Chairman, followed by the New England Chapter headed by Jud Brown, the Dixie Chapter with Norris Whiteside taking the lead, and in California with Henry Schneider in the Bay area and Gone Franks in Los Angeles, and with Larry Schwartz at the Great Lakes Chapter. The North Central Chapter followed in the late 70’s with Ric Herrera taking the lead in Minneapolis. With this widespread network of Chapters, The Filtration Society was very prominent in the USA at this time.

A critical event occurred in the spring of 1978 that would spawn the American Filtration Society. Wells Shoemaker and Norris Whiteside travelled to Manchester in the UK for a Committee meeting, carrying two proposals from the USA: it was the desire of the leadership of the American Chapters to band together as the American Program Committee (APC) for the express purposes of staging national meetings, and the Americans wished to stage the 3rd World Congress in 1982 under the sponsorship of the new APC group. After considerable discussion, the Committee of the Society accepted both proposals. The Chapters in America then had a solid foundation with which to build both a unified organisation under the APC name, and to run an important World Congress in the USA. The APC was organised formally in 1978 with Wells Shoemaker serving as Chairman. Later that year he was installed as Chairman of The Filtration Society at the 2nd World Congress in London, and he was later presented with a life membership of The Filtration Society in 1985.

Inauguration of the Dixie Chapter - Wells Shoemaker presents The Filtration Society charter to Norris Whiteside, President of the Chapter (second left) as vice-president Bill Warner (left) and assistant secretary/treasurer George Elliott look on.

Amidst an amount of cross-Atlantic controversy about the operation of the Society and the APC in 1987, three American members tendered their resignations from the Committee. Under their guidance the Chapters in the USA formed themselves into what is now known as the American Filtration and Separations Society.

Meanwhile, the Society continued to flourish elsewhere in the world. In the early 1970’s a Canadian Chapter was formed and the Society’s first outpost in Europe was established in Utrecht on 24 April 1972 when the Netherlands Branch under the Chairmanship of Dick Benjamins was created. The minimum membership for the formation of a Chapter was achieved in Belgium, leading to the formation of the Flemish Chapter early in 1980 with the leadership being assumed by Robert Weiler. The inaugural meeting of the Argentine Chapter was put together by Mino Covo and held in Buenos Aires on 20 December 1979, and of the Mexican Chapter in Mexico City on 18 August 1980, and a South African Chapter was formed under the guidance of Wynand van Wyk in 1983. Others were formed in Malaysia, Russia and India. Some of these Chapters were short lived due to lack of local members or absorbed into national bodies, others such as the Netherlands Branch went on to become filtration societies in their own right.

A clutch of past Chairmen: ( r.) Peter Swift, Harry Sanstedt, Dick Benjamins, Wells Shoemaker and Tony Ward.

In 1985, the Society’s branch in Japan was inaugurated during a visit by Albert Rushton. The group became known as the Japanese Association and was led by Mompei Shirato of Nagoya University. Today it remains one of the most active Chapters of the Society; Chapters in Scandinavia, now the Nordic Filtration Society, and India also remain active. The Society enjoys harmonious relationships with filtration groups and societies in over 25 countries worldwide.

In the early 1980’s the Bye Laws of the Society underwent major revision, the Committee became known as the Council and was simultaneously restructured, and the Society was incorporated. Shortly The Filtration Society was to become a Registered Charity in the UK. To most members these changes were unnoticeable and normal business was maintained. Day-to-day matters have always been looked after by an Honorary Secretary, of which there have been surprising few over the years – Bill Norris was the first, later followed by Tony Ward, Peter Swift, Mike Taylor and Richard Wakeman. Financial control has been exercised by a Treasurer, also an honorary position; this is again a position that has been occupied by relatively few people – Alan Robertson, Tony Ward, Peter Swift, Doug Moir, and Andy Walker.

Technical Filtration Matters

From the beginning, the Society organised technical meetings in the UK. The enthusiasm of the Society’s members led to cooperation in the development of a three day technical programme – which was to be held at Filtech (International Filtration Exhibition) at Earl’s Court in London under the chairmanship of Harold Suttle – within months of its establishment. Like all enthusiasm, the keenness of members involved in organising meetings has had its highs and lows, but today the Society still runs a well attended technical programme and cooperates with organisations overseas to set up international conferences. For example, throughout the 40 years the Society has worked with the organisers and played a key role in the development of the technical programmes for the series of biannual Filtech Conferences. In earlier days these were staged in London before moving to Karlsruhe, and later Düsseldorf. The Society has actively published the proceedings of its technical meetings – a compilation of several 1000 printed papers on the subject of filtration and closely related topics.

Mike Taylor opening a Filtech conference.

The records of the Society contain copies of all the earlier conferences starting with “Cost and Performance of Filtration and Separation Equipment” held in 1967, and thereafter covering a diverse range of topics from “Filtration in Medical and Health Engineering” to “Choosing the Right Equipment for Dust Control and Air Cleaning”, from “Current Patterns of Filtration and Separation Research” to “Filtration, Productivity and Profits: Liquid-Solids Separation”. These were generally one day technical meetings that attracted delegates from a breadth of industries, due to their interest and curiosity in the wider aspects of filtration as much as because they directly worked with particular types of filters.

The Filtration Society accepted the role of organising two World Congresses, the 2nd and the 8th in 1979 and 2000 respectively. The authors and the topics presented at these demonstrated the truly international character of the Society, the breadth of interest in a wide range of industry sectors, and the enormous spread of topics that are relevant to the overall subject that we call filtration. The world congress series precipitated a new atmosphere between researchers, users and sponsors of R&D, in which there was greater recognition of the need for the output of R&D to maintain flourishing filtration businesses that could meet the technical challenges posed by tightening legislation – particularly related to environmental matters taken in their broadest sense – and the ever growing desire to manufacture more sophisticated products in the process industries.

Albert Rushton speaking at the opening ceremony of the 8th World Filtration Congress.

To coincide with its organisation of the 8th World Filtration Congress in Brighton, The Filtration Society made 2000 a celebratory year: a new logo was introduced, a new corporate image was adopted, and the Journal and the Transactions of The Filtration Society were introduced. These publications were soon incorporated into a new publication, FILTRATION (no connection with the 1963 magazine of the same name), which is distributed to all members as the official journal of the Society. The World Congress was adjudged a great success and left the Society in a very strong position as the leading international organisation concerned with filtration and separation.

Recognising Excellence

An Awards Trust Fund was established soon after the formation of the Society, for the specific purpose of creating awards to recognise excellent work in furthering the knowledge of filtration and separation.

To encourage advancement in the knowledge of filtration and separation science and engineering, in 1966 the Society instituted a biannual award – the Gold Medal. The medal, bearing the Society’s logo that had been newly adopted at that time and suitably inscribed with the recipient’s name, was made possible by the generosity of Messrs. B. Thornton Ltd. who undertook to provide the medal on a continuing basis.

The first Gold Medal was awarded to Jacob Murkes, manager of the separation research department of Alfa-Laval in Stockholm, in London at the 1966 Annual General Meeting.

The Earl of Bessborough congratulating Jacob Murkes after presenting him with The Filtration Society’s Gold Medal.

To encourage and recognise the achievements of younger people, the Council established the Suttle Award, which was intended to be presented every two years to the author of a sufficiently meritorious technical paper. The Society’s dinner in London on 29 September 1971 marked the presentation of the first Suttle Award.

For a period in the 1970’s the Society also offered Travel and Study Awards to enable younger people to undertake studies into matters concerning filtration at a university or in industry.

Professor Dr Ir Pieter Heertjes presenting Richard Wakeman with the first Suttle Award in London.

The Filtration Society is run by a Council, made up of people who voluntarily give their time freely and without recompense to further its aims. Some are identified in this short history – but there are many others who have contributed to the Society and its activities through participation on Council, organising technical meetings, contributing invaluable advice and assistance with specific projects, and so on. Although the Society is a technically based organisation, its members enjoy international friendship with other people who face similar technical challenges in their working lives – many of whom are willing to exchange knowledge about topics of mutual interest. Although for some readers of this short history memories will be stirred, others may just be curious about the Society, how it came about and how it developed.

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