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Jack Mayne

born 21/5/1909, died 14/12/1996

Jack Mayne at his 85th Birthday Party
Jack Mayne at his 85th Birthday Party

An appreciation by David Scantlebury

John Edwin Oakley Mayne, always know as "Jack", was born on the 21st of May 1909 the only child of Sidney Mayne and Annie Oakley. He grew up in Luton, attending Dunstable Grammar School. He had a great sense of family and family traditions and often recalled the occasion when his grandfather, the then Mayor of Luton, was called upon to read the Riot Act after celebrations at the end of the war got out of hand and the Town Hall was burnt down. His grandfather and great uncle were provisions merchants with a stall at Luton market. They were both elected mayor on various occasions and always ensured that they did not serve on the market stall during terms of office.

He was sure from an early age that he wanted to study chemistry and indeed read chemistry at the Royal College of Science, University of London obtaining his BSc in 1930. He received a PhD in 1934 and took his DSc in 1953. He joined the Wire Rope Section of the (then) Safety in Mines Research Board in 1930. He was still located at the Royal College of Science and his studies were submitted for a PhD which was entitled "The Corrosion of Colliery Ropes" the examiners being Sir Harold Carpenter and F.G.Donnan. This was the beginning of his lifetime's work in corrosion. His first publication was in 1936 on Water Line Corrosion. He became recognised internationally for his work, and has presented plenary lectures at many conferences around the world. In 1986 he was awarded the U.R. Evans Award by the Institute of Corrosion, a sword much admired by his grandchildren, and in 1993 the prestigious Cavallaro Medal for his research and publication in corrosion.

He was offered a part time research position in the Corrosion group in the University of Cambridge, Department of Metallurgy by its leader Dr U.R. Evans in 1938 and he has remained in Cambridge ever since. When Evans retired in 1954, he took charge of the corrosion group and began supervising research students.

Jack always hated waste and since his position with Evans was only part time, he decided to occupy the other part of his time by embarking on a parallel career. He chose to invest his time and energy in setting up a factory to produce water based paints and in particular emulsion polymerised vinyl acetate which were just beginning to replace white-wash as a white domestic finish. In 1939, Mayne was co-founder of Vinyl Products Ltd which subsequently became part of Reichhold Chemicals Ltd, and remained on the board of both companies until they were taken over in the 1970's by Unilever. From the "proceeds" of the takeover, Mayne donated a generous sum to the University of Cambridge, Department of Metallurgy, which together with the residue of the U.R.Evans estate forms the U.R.Evans fund devoted to encouraging research on aqueous corrosion. This fund has been used to support Tim Burstein during much of his time at Cambridge.

Jack never let up on his research activities and has published a substantial corpus. He continued experimenting, writing, publishing and thinking about his subject until his death. Indeed formal retirement at seventy five did not slow down his rate of publication; the rate increased! His contribution to Corrosion Science was seminal in two subject areas; corrosion inhibitors and corrosion control by organic coatings.

His work on inhibitors concerned inhibition by non-oxidising and oxidising anodic inhibitors in neutral solutions mainly on iron and steel. Jack attended the first Ferrara Congress in 1960 and presented his work on inhibitors at Ferrara every five years until 1990.

Jack's early work on paints with Evans looked at zinc-rich paints and the effect of pigment volume concentration the coating performance. He was also very interested in the role of contaminants and underfilm corrosion and much of his early work concerned the problems of painting rusty steel and subsequent paint performance, a research problem which is receiving much attention at the moment since traditional anti-corrosive pigments are now becoming environmentally unacceptable. His work on Resistance Inhibition in the 50's forms the core of present day thinking on corrosion inhibition by paints. He showed that coatings are sufficiently permeable to oxygen and water so as not to stifle the cathodic reaction under the film and that the important processes are the movement of ions through the paint. Together with his research students this work continued by considering the ion permeability of coatings and conduction mechanisms, coating structure, solvents, inert and active pigments and soap formation.

He was also an outstanding supervisor of research students both in his intellectual input to their projects, and his care for their further training. We all found him personally very approachable and unassuming, a most kind and generous man. Jack not being a Cambridge man always felt slightly outside the system; for many years the University of Cambridge did not recognise the University of London PhD and Jack was known as Mr Mayne. He never had a formal appointment at the University; indeed he never drew a salary for his activities. Both he and Mrs Mayne always went out of their way to welcome strangers to the Department; many times these strangers ended up as close friends, accepting an offer of accommodation in the next door flat, or a visit to his boat on the Norfolk Broads, or to his flat at Woolacombe. His annual Christmas dinner party, for the whole group including the technician, cleaner and wives were splendid events. Mrs Mayne would prepare a delicious meal in her tiny kitchen and Jack would select the wines from his collection in the garage. The term "Mayne criterion" was coined to describe the situation when the number of empty bottles exceeded the number of persons sitting round the table. Jack would end up in the early hours imagining he could speak French and listening to Tom Lehrer.

Lionel Shreir first met Jack in 1951; Lionel had just been appointed as a lecturer to the Battersea College of Technology and was planning to initiate research and write lecture courses in corrosion. Two weeks in Cambridge in Evans' laboratory, being looked after by Jack was the start of a long friendship. Anyone seeking an introduction to Jack's work is well advised to consult the latest edition of Shreir's book (1994) where there are articles by Jack on organic coatings and Thomas on inhibitors.

Costi Edeleanu has said that Jack "has provided both moral and in many cases material support to individuals who are now well known in the field of corrosion. There are any number of us who regard Jack as the most generous man we have ever met and even people like U.R.Evans and Sam Hoar would not have been as productive as they were, had it not been for the help Jack had given them."

Throughout his life he had great enthusiasm for a wide range of subjects. He read widely in philosophy and history. He and Mrs Mayne were deeply interested in modern art. One of the joys of visiting his flat was to see original Picassos and Braques on the wall and Henry Moore bronzes on the shelves. Jack had an excellent wine collection, mainly French and red. When I was a research student, there was a family pilgrimage in the Rover to Bordeaux when they explored the various Chateaux Mayne and returned with samples which "needed further study".

His wife Margaret died in 1991, they had been married fifty one years. He remained remarkably fit and active: still maintaining and riding his bike around Cambridge until a few weeks ago. Jack's passing seems like the end of an era, the severing of the connection with the prewar Evans corrosion school. He will be sadly missed by his children and grandchildren, and his very many friends and colleagues in the United Kingdom and around the world.


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