Sir Frederick ‘Ned’ Warner, a founding Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, the longest-serving member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), and one of the first engineers from outside the Soviet Union to examine Chernobyl after nuclear meltdown, celebrates his 100th birthday today (31 March).

The milestone marks yet another high point in Sir Ned’s remarkable life, which has seen him encounter some of the most significant events in recent history . After pursuing a chemistry degree, and then a postgraduate qualification, at University College London from 1929 to 1934, Sir Ned became an active Communist student and travelled to Schleswig-Holstein in Germany to disrupt a Nazi rally.

His career began in the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. He found his first job at a chemical plant owned by A Boake Roberts, around the same time that he joined the in 1936. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Sir Ned was asked to build a nitric acid plant in Drigg, near Sellafield, despite having little knowledge of how to construct a chemical plant. He spent most of the war producing strong nitric acid for explosives.

A career in penicillin production followed, as well as the Presidency of the IChemE from 1966-67. A decade later, amongst roles that included advising government bodies and a return to academic research at Imperial College London, Sir Ned Warner became one of the founder members of the Academy, or the Fellowship of Engineering as it was originally known.

He went on to become pro-Vice Chancellor of the Open University, and sat on major inquiries such as the Windscale Inquiry, before retiring in 1980, but his work did not stop there. Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Sir Frederick led the first international team to examine the effects of the fallout. This led to the formation of a 100-strong team of people aged over 65 – Volunteers for Ionising Radiation – who would enter areas affected by nuclear incident.

Notes for editors

  1. For more details of Sir Ned Warner’s remarkable life, please read this article (543.78 KB) courtesy of ‘The Chemical Engineer’
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community.