The Archives of Joseph William Mellor (1869-1938): Chemist, Ceramicist & Cartoonist

Author: Smith, Romilly

Date: 2015

Publisher: University of Otago Library

Type: Working or discussion paper

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University of Otago


Joseph William Mellor (1869-1938) was an Otago graduate who became a ceramicist, a cartoonist, and, more importantly, a famous chemist. Indeed, his single-handed effort to complete his 16 volume definitive work A Comprehensive Treatise on Inorganic and Theoretical Chemistry (1922-1937), which amounted to over 15,000 pages and 16 million words, has never been equalled. From very humble beginnings and self-initiated study, Mellor obtained a place at the University of Otago, and then won a scholarship to study for a research degree at Owens College, Manchester. He then moved to Stoke-on-Trent, where he became principal of the Technical College (now part of Staffordshire University). During the First World War, Mellor’s research was directed towards refractories, high-temperature ceramics relevant to the steel industry and thus the war effort. It was for this work that he was offered a peerage, which he turned down. In 1927 he was elected to the Royal Society for work related to ceramics, the only other being Josiah Wedgwood in the eighteenth century. Mellor retained a boyish sense of humour all his life, and he was dubbed by colleagues the ‘Peter Pan of Ceramics’. He was also a skilled cartoonist and his Uncle Joe’s Nonsense (1934) contains a collection of humorous stories illustrated with clever pen sketches. Just before Mellor died in May 1938, he received a C.B.E.

Subjects: Joseph Mellor, Chemistry, Cartoons, Ceramics, University of Otago

Citation: ["Smith, R. (2015). The Archives of Joseph William Mellor (1869-1938): Chemist, Ceramicist & Cartoonist (Working Paper). University of Otago Library. Retrieved from"]

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