Henry Reginald Clive Pratt

There are many chemical engineers who inspired me, not the least being a cousin who convinced me to study chemical engineering rather than music. Of the many, Henry Reginald Clive Pratt stands out above the others. Clive Pratt was recruited from Harwell to come to Australia to lead the CSIRO Division of Chemical Engineering. The course at Melbourne University at the time was short on staff and Pratt stood in as a lecturer. His grasp of the fundamentals was extraordinary as was his mathematical prowess.

I think there were only a couple of us who could follow some of the derivations and anyone who has read his book Countercurrent separation processes” will know what I mean.

He was however at all times interested in the practical and applications. As a newcomer to Australia, he recognised the need for desalination and developed a leading-edge group to pursue innovative approaches. He also saw that Australia had so many opportunities in mineral processing and developed a group that remains world-famous to this day. I worked with him as a vacation student and later joined his team. In my early days at CSIRO, he allocated secretarial services to me, a then rather junior researcher saying “Robin, get used to working like this. It is the pattern for your future”. Such was his generosity and encouraging style. Equally, he could query anyone on the fundamentals of what they were doing.

We had many interesting conversations over the years that taught me never to be precious with ideas. All ideas are expanded when discussed with others.

Clive in his London robes. Image kindly donated by the family.

List image credit: Dorothy Chiron / Shutterstock.com

This story has been contributed by Past President Robin Batterham