John Metcalfe Coulson was born on 13th December 1910 in Dudley into a teacher family: his father was the Principal of the Dudley Technical College and his mother was a school headmistress. His twin brother, Charles Alfred Coulson also chose a scientific career - he became a professor in applied mathematics and theoretical chemistry and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

John Coulson completed his undergraduate studies at Christ's College, Cambridge before moving to Imperial College London for his postgraduate degree. He achieved a PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1935, his research focusing on the flow of fluids through packed beds. He joined the academic staff as an Assistant Lecturer in 1939, but was almost immediately required to leave and manage the Royal Ordnance Factories during the Second World War.

After the war, he returned to the Department first as Lecturer and later promoted to Reader. His teaching duties included running the entire final year of the undergraduate course. He collaborated with Sir Frederick Warner to write a design exercise on "The Manufacture of Nitrotoluene" and published research papers on heat transfer, evaporation, distillation and liquid extraction.

In 1954 he co-authored the famous "Coulson & Richardson's Chemical Engineering" textbook with Jack Richardson, an alumnus and lecturer of the department. He was appointed as the first Head of Department at Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the same year, where Chemical Engineering became a separate Department. He remained there until his retirement in 1975, although he was on leave for one year in 1968 while acting as an adviser and de facto Head of Department at Heriot Watt University while their splitting from Edinburgh took part. He was awarded the George E. Davis Medal of the Institute of Chemical Engineers in 1973 for his service to chemical engineering (this medal has only been awarded 11 times in the past half-century). He was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot Watt University in the same year.

John Coulson married first in 1943 to Dora Scott, with whom he had two sons, Anthony and Simon. After his first wife's death in 1961, he remarried to Christine Gould in 1965 and they had one daughter. Professor Coulson died on 6th January 1990 at the age of 79.


Who's who 2016 Professor John Coulson

Coulson & Richardson, Chemical Engineering, volume 1, 6th edition (1999).