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Sir Julius Wernher memorial lectures

The Sir Julius Wernher memorial lecture is held at major mining or metallurgy conferences, at approximately two-yearly intervals, to focus attention on important questions connected with mining and metallurgy. The first Wernher memorial lecture was held on 15 April 1947 and a full list of the lectures, giving details of the conference at which the lecture was held and publication information, is given below. Lectures published since about 1980 also have entries on IMMAGE.


Sir Julius Wernher Memorial Lectures


  1. 1947, 15th April.  A J Orenstein, "The history and prevention of silicosis, with special reference to the Witwatersrand", at Silicosis, Pneumoconiosis and Dust Suppression conference (IMM Bull no.486, May 1947).
  2. 1949, 6th July.  C D Desch, "The effects of impurities on the properties of metals", at the Refining of Nonferrous Metals conference (Proceedings, p.9; IMM Bull no.513, Aug. 1949, 15-30).
  3. 1952, 22nd Sept.   A M Gaudin, "Radioactivity in mineral processing", at Recent Developments in Mineral Dressing (Proceedings, p.xv; IMM Bull no.552, Nov. 1952, 29-41).
  4. 1958, 22nd Sept.  A. Gray, "The future of mineral exploration", at Future of Nonferrous Mining in Great Britain and Ireland (Proceedings, p.xi; IMM Bull no.624, Nov. 1958, 21-36).
  5. 1960, 6th April.  Sir Ian W. Wark, "Exploitation of minerals for mankind", at 5th International Mineral Processing Congress (IMM Bull no. 642, May 1960, 44-58).
  6. 1964.  R.P. Koenig, "Vertical integration in the mining industry", at Opencast Mining/Quarrying and Alluvial Mining (IMM Bull no. 697, Dec. 1964, 106-128).
  7. 1967, 17 April.  F.D. Richardson, "Growth and use of basic knowledge in extractive metallurgy",  at Advances in Extractive Metallurgy (IMM Bull no.727, June 1967, 5-22).
  8. 1971, 4th Oct.  J.H. Chesters, "The case for continuity in extractive metallurgy", at Advances in Extractive Metallurgy and Refining (IMM Bull no.781, Dec. 1971, 13-28).
  9. 1972, 17th April.  K.C. Dunham, "Basic and applied geochemists in search of ore", at the 4th International Geochemical Exploration Symposium (IMM Bull no.789, Aug. 1972, 13-18).
  10. 1973, 2nd April.  M.G. Fleming, "Man and minerals – a viable contract", at the 10th International Mineral Processing Congress (Proceedings, p.xvii-xlii).   
  11. 1974, 4th June.  Sir Alan Cottrell, "The age of scarcity", at Minerals and the Environment (IMM Bull no.812, July 1974, 25-29).
  12. 1976, 1st March.  R.J. Robbins, "Mechanised tunnelling - progress and expectations", at Tunnelling ’76 (Proceedings p.xi; Trans IMM, Sect A, vol. 85, April 1976, A41-A51).
  13. 1977, 18th April. H.H. Kellogg, "Conservation and metallurgical process design", at Advances in Extractive Metallurgy ’77 (Trans. IMM, Sect. C, vol. 86, June 1977, C47-C57).
  14. 1979, 12th March.  A.M. Muir Wood, "Ground behaviour and support for mining and tunnelling", at Tunnelling ’79 (Trans IMM, Sect. A, vol. 88, April 1979, A23-A35).
  15. 1980, 27th May.  J. Birks, "Oil and minerals: similarities and differences", at National and International Management of Mineral Resources (Trans IMM, Sect. A, vol. 89, A112-A117).
  16. 1981, 21st Sept.  H.R. Wuthrich, "Non-ferrous metals in our industrial world", at Extraction Metallurgy ’81 (Trans IMM, Sect. C, vol. 90, Dec. 1981, C121-C125).
  17. 1982, 8th June.  E. Hoek, "Geotechnical considerations in tunnel design and contract preparation", at Tunnelling ’82 (Trans IMM, Sect. A, vol.91, July 1982, A101-A109).
  18. 1984, 26th March.  D.G. Krige, "Geostatistics and the definition of uncertainty", at APCOM ’84 (Trans IMM, Sect. A, vol.93, April 1984, A41-A47).
  19. 1985, 10th March.  E.T. Brown, "From theory to practice in rock engineering", at Tunnelling ’85 (Proceedings, p. ix-xxiv; Trans IMM, Sect. A, vol.94, April 1985, A67-A83).
  20. 1985, 9th Sept.  J.F. Elliott, "The role of interfaces in pyrometallurgical processes", at Extraction Metallurgy ’85 (Trans IMM, Sect. C, vol.94, Dec. 1985, C171-C178);
  21. 1987, 21st Sept.  N.J. Themelis, "Transport phenomena in high-intensity smelting furnaces", at Pyrometallurgy ’87 (Trans IMM, Sect. C, vol.96, Dec. 1987, C179-C185).
  22. 1988, 6th Jan.  M.D.G. Salamon, "Developments in rock mechanics: a perspective of 25 years", at CARE ’88 (Trans IMM, Sect. A, vol.97, April 1988, A57-A68).
  23. 1988, 18th April.  G. Sauer, "When an invention is something new: from practice to theory in tunnelling", at Tunnelling ’88 (Trans IMM, Sect. a, vol.97, April 1988, A94-A108). 
  24. 1989, 10th July.  J.E. Hoffmann, "Advances in the extractive metallurgy of some rare and precious metals", at Extraction Metallurgy ‘89 (Miner. Ind. Int., no.989, July 1989, 5-16).
  25. 1991, 14th April.  C.J. Kirkland, "Tunnelling in a changing world", at Tunnelling ’91 (Trans IMM, Sect. A, May-Aug. 1991, A89-A91).
  26. 1994, 5th July.  A.R. Biggat, "The changing face of tunnelling", at Tunnelling ’94 (Trans IMM, Sect. A, vol.103, Sept.-Dec. 1994, A155-A176).
  27. 1994, 11th July.  A.R. Burkin, "Chemical hydrometallurgy, 1952-1994", at Hydrometallurgy ’94 (Trans IMM, Sect. C, vol.103, Sept.-Dec. 1994, C169-C176).
  28. 1995, 10th July.   J.W. Edington, "Primary iron- and steelmaking in the twenty-first century", at Pyrometallurgy ’95 (Miner. Ind. Int., no.1026, Sept. 1995, 7-12).
  29. 1997, 2nd Sept.  S. Babendererde, "Urban explosion: a development that challenges tunnelling technology", at Tunnelling ’97 (Trans IMM, Sect. A, vol.106, May-Aug 1997, A51-A53).
  30. 2001 Luis Eduardo Cortes, vice-president and minister for public works in the Madrid Government, at Underground Construction and Tunnelling conference;
  31. 2003.  M. Herrenknecht at Underground Construction 2003;
  32. 2008, 24th Sept.  R. Sillitoe, "Epithermal and porphyry gold – science-driven exploration successes", at Finex 2008.
  33. 2010, 29th Oct.  N. Phillips, "Adding value in gold exploration: beyond technology and drilling", at Finex 2010 (Trans IMM, Sect. B, vol.121, no.1, 2012, 7-20).



About Sir Julius Wernher

The following passage is excerpted from The Professionals: The Institution of Mining and Metallurgy 1892-1992 by A.J. Wilson, IMM, 1994, p.197-200


On 15 April 1947 – at a time when the Royal Family were touring South Africa to an enthusiastic welcome from the country’s many races – the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy held its first Sir Julius Wernher Memorial Lecture at the Royal Institution in London.

There was a popular view in London society around the turn of the century – and to some extent it persists today – that those who made huge fortunes from mining in South Africa were flamboyant characters who spent most of their time drinking champagne, gambling in shares and watching their racehorses win the world's classic events.

Swiftly, dramatically after the Boer War, the Witwatersrand became a great 'gold factory', processing its product like any other industry. With the Transvaal now part of the British Empire, the investing public saw the prospects of big profits continuing for years and they rushed to buy shares. Those who did best in the boom were those who had pioneered the larger companies, men such as J .B. Robinson, Alfred Beit, Julius Wernher, Barney and Harry Barnato, Solly Joel and Lionel Phillips. Most of them were Jews and many were of German origin. The Rand millionaires had palatial residences in Johannesburg and were big landowners ln the Cape. But these were just pieds-à-terre. Town houses in London and estates in the English countryside and Scotland were necessary to qualify for membership of this exclusive 'club', as were yachts, grouse moors and racing stables. Robinson bought Dudley House, one of London's historic homes, and filled its beautiful gallery with a collection of world-famous pictures. Alfred Beit had a house in Park Lane and an estate in Hertfordshire. His friend Julius Wernher – they had gone out to Kimberley together as clerks for Jules Porges and Co.. diamond buyers of Paris – bought Bath House in Piccadilly and Luton Hoo in Bedfordshire, where he lived in Edwardian splendour.

Wernher's fortune was the biggest of them all. When he died in 1912 he left £11.5 million, four times as much as poor Beit, his partner in the Central Mining and Investment Corporation and Rand Mines Limited, the famous 'Corner House' group. And this was odd because Julius was a cautious, retiring man, so overshadowed by Beit that many thought that the 'Wernher' of Wernher, Beit and Company was Beit's first name and clients would arrive at the Johannesburg office asking for 'Mr Wernher Beit'. Cecil Rhodes used to say that as fast as Beit bought interests in speculative ventures in South Africa, Wernher sold them before they reached London, and perhaps that was the secret of his fortune.

Of course, there was 'wheeling and dealing' on a gigantic scale, but the Johannesburg mining millionaires were not just the carefree and amusing playboys that London society took them to be. The outstanding characteristic of most of them was their generosity: they accepted the responsibilities of their wealth as seriously as they undertook their company and public duties, and present generations should not forget the debt that is owed to the endowment of education and technical training by Rhodes and his henchmen, and at a later date by men such as Sir Abe Bailey and Sir Ernest Oppenheimer.

Of particular concern to the IMM was the lifelong interest of Julius Weenher in science and art. As has been seen, he was a member of Lord Haldane's Committee that led to the formation of Imperial College. The RSM building in South Kensington owes its existence largely to the munificence of Wernher and Beit. Wernher made handsome gifts to other educational and research bodies; he was awarded the IMM Gold Medal for his personal services to the advancement of technological education, and when he died he bequeathed the Institution £5000, to which a like sum was added by his widow, who later provided another £10000 towards the purchase of the 'House of the Institution' in Finsbury Circus just before the First World War (see Chapter Four).

The IMM had long wished to honour Wernher's memory and eventually, 35 years after his death, established a series of lectures in his name with the object of bringing to public attention matters of importance to the mining industry. In selecting silicosis as the subject of the first lecture, Council recognised the high importance of the dust hazard in mining and the responsibility of the profession to take a lead in combating its effects and solving its problems.

Moreover, this was a malalse that was by no means confined to mining. As chairman Sydney Taylor told those who gathered at the Royal Institution, by focussing 'public attention on the problems of silicosis [we] hope that new recruits may be induced to join the ranks of those who are trying to combat this disease and that the team of scientists who are engaged in the struggle may be encouraged to redouble their efforts'.

Council had good reason to congratulate themselves on securing as lecturer Dr A.J. Orenstein, the leading authority on industrial hygiene in South Africa, where methods of dealing with silicosis were the most advanced in the world. It was also a happy coincidence that for more than 30 years Dr Orenstein had worked for the Corner House group and had become chief medical officer to the mining house that Sir Julius Wernher had played such a major part in creating.

The Wernher lectures have continued into modern times. They are significant not only for their practical value but because they can perhaps be seen as an early stage in the widening of the status and function of the IMM from a professional institution to one of the Commonwealth's learned societies.


(c) Copyright the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy and A.J. Wilson, 1992


For further discussion of the origin and development of the lectures see From the Rand to the Royal Institution: origins of the Sir Julius Wernher memorial lecture, Applied Earth Science (Trans IMM, Sect. B), vol.121, no.1, 2012, p. 2-6.


More about the role of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy in the history of IOM3