Death of Mr W.J.Dibdin
A DISTINGUISHED SCIENTIST
( 1850 – 1925 )
Many in Sutton and the neighbourhood will hear with deep regret of the death of Mr. William Joseph Dibdin, of 31, Idminston Road, West Norwood , formerly of Mayfield, Grange Road Sutton. Death was due to an accident, which occurred about five weeks ago. He was moving a kettle full of boiling water from a gas fire when it slipped and his foot and leg were badly scalded. It was at first hoped that no serious consequences would ensue, but the shock to one of his advanced years ( he was 74) was so great that he could not recover, and he passed away on Tuesday, the end was peaceful and without pain. His death was as he would have wished it, that is, he died in harness, having been well and busy right up to the time of the accident and keeping cheerful and bright until the end.
Although latterly not much before the public eye, he was in his time, one of the leading scientists in the country, and attained a considerable reputation as an analytical and consulting chemist. His great work was the utilisation of micro-organisms for the purification of sewage in contact and slate beds and it was in Sutton that his system was used to full effect. The Sutton bacteria beds, installed on his advice, are famous throughout the world, and have been visited by experts and scientists from almost every country of the globe.
He was one of the greatest authorities in the country on coal gas, and it is no exaggeration to say that there is not a single consumer of the commodity who has not benefited or is benefiting today as a result of the work done by him in the early days.
He devised and organised a very complete and thorough system of testing, which has brought about the savings, in the aggregate, of enormous sums of money to the community at large. By many it is considered that no one man has ever done so much for the gas world and Mr. Dibdin.
Another direction in which he saved for the public a great sum of money was in connection of the water supply for London. The Progressive on the London County Council originated a scheme to bring water to London from Wales, as is nowadays done in the case of Birmingham, on the ground that in the course of 20 years or so London would be short of water. Mr Dibdin opposed the idea, and proved to them that the water of London would last for many years, and that it would be a waste of public money to enter into – as he outspokenly described it - “ such a wicked scheme”.
He provided evidence other than his own opinion to substantiate his statements, and the scheme was knocked on the head. His opposition, however, was the beginning of the end of his career as a public official, as it brought him “up against” both those who expected to make a name for themselves and the originators and engineers of the project, and the Progressives, who had set their heart on “killing” the water companies.
In this connection, it is said the Mr. Dibdin was the cause of the famous dictum or Mr. John Burns: “ No man is worth more than £500 a year, “ uttered during the course of a discussion as to raising the salary of Mr Dibdin, who was being paid £600 a year at the time.
He commenced his career as Chief of the Chemical and Gas Department, Metropolitan Board of Works and London County Council in 1882, continuing in this position until 1897, since which date he had engaged in private practice. He was a fellow of the Institute of Chemistry, A Fellow of the Royal Sanitary Institute, A Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Institute, a Past President of the Institute of Sanitary Engineers and of the Association of Managers of Sewage Disposal Works, and a Past Vice-President of the Society of Public Analysts.
His inventions include the Board of Trade standard pentane argand, a radial photometer, and Dibdin’s hand photometer.
He was the author of many standard works and papers. Among these were “Practical Photometry”, “Purification of Sewage and Water”, Lime, Mortar and Cement”, “Public Lighting”, “ The Composition and Strength of Mortars” (research for and published by the Royal Institute of British Architects, Papers (48), including “Purification of the Thames” (1897 Journal – Institute of Civil Engineers), London Water Supply (Journal – Society of Chemical Industry, 1906), and he was editor and part author of Vol. IV, of “Churchill’s Chemical Technology.
He leaves a widow, three sons and five daughters. Mr Lionel Aglio Dibdin, formerly a prominent Suttonian is a well known resident of Carshalton, amnd married to a daughter of a leading Sutton family (the Haycrafts, of Medmenham” Eaton Road), who is prominent in local musical circles. Mr Reginald Aglio Dibdin was his father’s partner, and will carry on the business. Mr Frederick Joseph Aglio Dibdin is in America.
The funeral arrangenments include a service at All Saints’, Rosendale Road, Dulwich, conducted by the Rev A.G.Cowham, this (Friday) morning, followed by a cremation at Norwood Crematorium.