Conference: The Changing Role of Consultants in Industry, 1850-2000



The Conference is supported by the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry, the Newcomen Society, the British Society for the History of Science and Oxford Brookes University.


Consultants have been neglected by historians of engineering and technology. Yet consultants were often a key resource in helping firms innovate. This was especially true in new sectors moving from craft-based traditions to use of scientific knowledge. Consultants played an important role in spreading new technologies across firms, improving operating practices within factories, establishing standards and helping develop key supply industries.

Papers cover a wide range of sectors including water supply, civil engineering, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, construction and management consultancy.

The workshop is based on pre-circulated papers available to delegates beforehand and brief presentations to allow plenty of time for discussion.

Read more here


Friday 10 May 2019

12 noon-13.15     Arrival, registration and lunch

13.15-14.15          Anna Guagnini (University of Bologna): Keynote Lecture: Exploring the diversified and evolving galaxy of the consulting profession in industry. Notes from existing maps and suggestions about navigation tools

14.15-15.45          Session 1

Anna Simmons (UCL):  Samples, Societies and Status: Chemical Consultancy and the Career of Robert Warington

Peter Reed (Independent Researcher): George E Davis (1850-1907): Transition from Industrial Consultancy to Chemical Engineering

Robin Mackie and Gerrylynn Roberts (The Open University): The careers of chemical consultants in late nineteenth and twentieth century Britain

15.45-16.00         Tea

16.00-17.00        Session 2

Annette Lykkens (The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim): The chemistry professor as consultant, 1910-1930

Jonathan Aylen (Manchester Institute of Innovation Research): Managing Knowledge in the 20th Century: the role of consultants and contractors in supporting technology intensive firms in steel and chemicals

17.00-17.30         Concluding remarks and discussion


Saturday 11 May 2019

9.30-10.00          Arrival, registration and coffee

10.00-11.30         Session 3

Richard Byrom (Independent Researcher): Apprentice Millwright to Consulting Civil Engineer: Sir William Fairbairn FRS

John Porter (Newcomen Society): Consultancy in the 19th century London Water Supply Industry

Stathis Arapostathis (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens): Electrifying Consultants: Roles and Identities in the British Electrical Industry, 1880-1930           

11.30-13.00         Session 4

Kira Lussier (University of Toronto): Consulting Psychologists, Psychological Tests and Expertise in Human Resource Consulting Firms,


Elizabeth Cory-Pearce (UCL): Eric Miller and the application of an anthropological training to textiles industry consulting

Viviane Quirke (Oxford Brookes University): From tamoxifen to SERMS: Craig Jordan and Imperial Chemical Industries, 1960s-1990s

13.00-13.45         Lunch

13.45-15.15          Session 5

David Witt: Experiences of a consultant to the avionics industry, 1970-2000

Andrew Rabeneck (Independent Researcher): The Place of Construction Consultants within the Globalised Economy

Paul Bell (Consultant Jampel Davison & Bell): Changes in the Status and Role of Consulting Engineers since 1970

15.15-16.00         Concluding remarks and discussion

16.00-16.30         Tea

16.30                     Workshop ends