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Edgar Philip Perman, D.Sc., F.C.S. (1866-1947) 40th President

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We have a short obituary of him in Volume LXXIX of the Transactions for 1948


Perman was the son of a headmaster of Wincanton. He was educated at his father's school and at University College, London. He later carried out research with Sir William Ramsay on the boiling points of the alkali metals, on the dissociation of diatomic bromine and iodine at high temperatures, and on the elasticity of ethyl ether, and he was awarded the D.Sc. degree of the University of London.

In 1892 Perman was appointed Lecturer in Chemistry at University College, Cardiff, where in 1904 he was made Assistant Professor. Except for a period of war service in 1914-18, when he worked in London with T. M. Lowry on ammonium nitrate explosives, he remained in Cardiff until 1941, when, after his house in Llanbleddian Gardens had been damaged by a bomb explosion, he went to live near Builth. After a very brief illness, he passed away at Llanafan Fawr on May 27th, 1947, in his 82nd year.

As a teacher he was clear, thorough and painstaking. Among the public he had a high reputation as a popular lecturer, and his discourses on such subjects as spinning tops, soap bubbles, and liquid air were illustrated with a wealth of spectacular experiments. It was, however, to his research students that Perman gave the best of his attention, and for this he was well rewarded by the skilful help of a succession of devoted and gifted collaborators in his scientific investigations.

As a research chemist, Perman enjoyed an international and thoroughly merited reputation. Alone and with students, over many years, he investigated the problems of the escape of gases from solution, the heats of dilution of solutions, the transmutation of elements, and the phase-equilibria of mixtures of ammonium nitrate with other salts. Almost as early as Haber, Perman realised the scientific and economic importance of the synthesis of ammonia from its elements, and he demonstrated the reversibility of the reaction, but, unfortunately, owing to the high temperatures which he employed, the yield proved discouraging. Perman's accurate determination of the density of ammonia was, at the time it was made, of fundamental importance, for, it gave 14.007 as the atomic weight of nitrogen, so confirming the value that was then being adopted in preference to 14.04, which on the authority of Stas had for many years previously been accepted.

In manner Perman was quiet, unassuming, and always ready to help his students and friends. Absorbed though he was in scientific investigation, he was a man of wide interests. He was fond of music, and he played the violin and the pianoforte. He had travelled extensively in Central Europe. When young, he was an ardent walker and Alpine climber, and even in his later years visited Switzerland regularly for the skiing. He was also a keen motorist and lover of the countryside, and was the author of a useful guide-book entitled, Highways and Byways in South Wales. Perman's interests in science were in no wise confined to chemistry. From the time of the discovery of X-rays and radioactivity he closely followed the developments of knowledge concerning them. At one time he was an enthusiastic gardener, and in his motoring days became a collector of wild flowers for the National Museum of Wales. He was a member of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society for many years, and had served as its President (in 1913).


I have only located a few newspaper articles about him, he seems to have been a conscientious researcher and occasional speaker as noted above. I have found references that in this first lecture he handed around glowing radioactive substances in the dark!

Story Of Radium, Evening Express 29th January 1904

Story Of Radium, Evening Express 29th January 1904

Evening Express 11th June 1908

Evening Express 11th June 1908

Back to the 150th Anniversary index

Before this... Alfred William Sheen, C.B.E., M.S., F.R.C.S., (1869-1945) 39th President

Next up... John W. Rodger (1859-1950) 41st President

See our Full list of Presidents

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