The South African Chemical Institute

Promoting chemistry, chemists, the chemical industry
    and chemical education in South Africa






History of SACI


The history of the South African Chemical Institute has been written on two occasions. The first account was prepared by Principal H R Raikes who was President at the time of the twenty-first anniversary in 1933 and the second was compiled for the Golden Jubilee in 1962. It appeared in the pages of “The South African Industrial Chemist” in the January 1963 issue. The authorship is uncertain but it is suspected that Dr Ken Mathieson, the enthusiastic editor of this journal, was responsible.

The two aforementioned accounts have proved of considerable value in preparing this review of the history. Another important source of information was the comprehensive series of Annual Reports that have been published each year and contain a chronological account of events. It is hoped that the reader will refer to them if necessary.

The birth of the Institute in 1912 happened only twenty-six years after the discovery of gold
on the Witwatersrand in 1886. The general infrastructure for the gold mining industry was very new and still developing. The chemist population was small throughout the country and training facilities were still being established. James Gray, who is reputed to have been the driving force behind the founding of the Institute, was born in Cape Town in 1882, his father having settled there after leaving his job as a ship’s engineer in a vessel ferrying troops to the Zulu war. In 1889, when his father moved to the Witwatersrand to the newly developed gold mines (a Rand Pioneer), James was sent to relatives in Glasgow for his education. When he returned, a qualified Associate of the Institute of Chemistry from the Glasgow Technical College in 1902,he went to the Witwatersrand but could not get a job as a chemist and had to work as a mine surveyor. After a while he was employed in Heymann’s Laboratories as an Analytical and Consulting Chemist but started his own business about 1910. One can imagine, at that time,
that there was almost an obsession to have the chemical profession recognised, as there was
no way the public could distinguish the unqualified practitioner from the qualified. This therefore was one of the main objectives of the Association of Analytical Chemists when founded.

As a general rule, unless there is a particular relevance to the text, names are not mentioned in this account and the reader is referred to the Annual Report for the year in question if further information is required.

Download history documents below

History of SACI - DJS Gray: 1912 - 1978

History of SACI - IR Green: 1978 - 2012