Cadman, John, first Baron Cadman 1877-1941, scientist and public servant, was born 7 September 1877 in the mining village of Silverdale, north Staffordshire, the eldest of the thirteen children of James Cope Cadman and his wife, Betty, daughter of Joseph Keeling. He was educated at the High School, Newcastle under Lyme, and went with a county scholarship to the Durham College of Science (later Armstrong College), Newcastle upon Tyne, and graduated B.Sc. in the university of Durham in 1899, later proceeding M.Sc. and D.Sc. He was trained as a mining engineer by his father, a civil engineer specializing in mining problems, and his knowledge of engineering, chemistry, and physics was extensive. After serving as assistant manager of the collieries at Silverdale and Trimdon Grange, he was appointed a government inspector of mines in 1902. At first he was stationed in east Scotland where he came in touch with the Scottish shale-oil industry and the work of James Young [qv.] on the distillation of coal and shale. From that time he took a keen interest in oil. He made great efforts to reduce the loss of life in coal-mines and was always ready to risk his own life in his search for information. He was awarded a gold medal for exceptional bravery in rescue work after a disaster at the Hamstead colliery in 1908, and for other brave actions he was awarded the North Staffordshire Brigade rescue medal with five clasps.
In 1904 Cadman was seconded from the Home Office to the Colonial Office for service in Trinidad as government mining engineer, and on returning to this country undertook special research for the Royal Commission on mines, 1907-8. In the latter year he was appointed professor of mining at Birmingham University where he remained for thirteen years. He organized a school of petroleum technology which was the first of its kind in the world. Until then foreigners had been responsible for the development of all petroleum projects abroad, but Cadman's school turned out fully trained technologists able to take their place in the field. Cadman loved his professorial duties and planned coal and petroleum research on a large scale. His work was interrupted when in 1913 he was appointed to an Admiralty commission to investigate the potentialities of the Persian oilfields. The Royal Navy was by now committed to the adoption of oil as its principal fuel and an assured supply from the newly formed Anglo-Persian Oil Company appeared to be essential. As a result of the work of the commission an agreement was completed between the Admiralty and the company. When the oil position became critical in the course of the war of 1914-18 Cadman became director of the Petroleum Executive and chairman of the Inter-Allied Petroleum Council.
Resigning his professorship in 1920 Cadman became technical adviser to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1921, a director in 1923 and later chairman. He was also chairman of the Iraq Petroleum Company, a director of the Suez Canal Company and of the Great Western Railway Company. In addition he did much public work, serving on the Post Office committee of inquiry, 1932, on the Post Office Advisory Council, 1936-9, on the Advisory Council, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1920-28 and 1934-9, on the Fuel Research Board, 1923-41, on the Economic Advisory Council, 1930-41; he was chairman of the civil aviation inquiry, 1937-8, and of the television advisory committee, 1939.
Many honours, including several foreign decorations, came to Cadman who was appointed C.M.G. in 1916 and promoted K.C.M.G. (1918) and G.C.M.G. (1929) and raised to the peerage as Baron Cadman, of Silverdale, in 1937. He was an honorary Doctor of Law (1934) of Birmingham, Doctor of Civil Laws (1937) of Durham, and D.Eng. of Melbourne, and he was elected F.R.S. in 1940. He presided at various times over the Institute of Petroleum, which he helped to found, the Institution of Mining Engineers, the Institute of Fuel, and the Society of Gas Engineers. He combined scientific and technical knowledge with business ability and an unusual understanding of men. The importance of the human factor in industrial efficiency was preached and practised by him. He was a good churchman, of moderate views, and while chairman of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company he appointed a resident chaplain in Abadan. Later he appointed the Rev. P. T. B. (Tubby) Clayton, founder of Toc H, to travel to and fro on the various ships of the tanker fleet and subsequently made him chaplain to the company, with an office at London headquarters.
Cadman was staunch and faithful as a friend and was ever ready to help and offer a word of advice. Coal was always his main interest and he often laughingly remarked that he was not an oil man. Coal, he said, was in his blood and always would be. Although he was not in favour of nationalizing the coal-mines, he advocated a federation to control or advise on all operations from the pit to the consumer. He was a friendly critic of the gas industry and put forward proposals for the transmission of gas at pressures up to 600 pounds per square inch, with transforming stations to reduce the pressure to the requirements of the consumer.
On the outbreak of war in 1939, although very unwell, Cadman offered his help to the Government and served as honorary principal adviser on oil; he served also as the first chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council appointed by the minister of supply. The work taxed his strength to the utmost and after a long illness he died 31 May 1941 at his home near Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. He was buried in the churchyard of the parish church at Silverdale. In 1907 he married Lilian, daughter of John Harragin, a stipendiary magistrate, of Trinidad. They had two daughters and two sons, the elder of whom, John Basil Cope (born 1909) succeeded to the title. A portrait by J. A. A. Berrie hangs in the board-room of the British Petroleum Company at Britannic House, Finsbury Circus, London.
Sir Frank Smith in Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society, No. 10, December 1941
Contributor: F. E. Smith.