The Death of Professor George Kenneth (Ken) Anderson

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Byline: By Tom Curtis

Professor George Kenneth (Ken) Anderson FCIWEM April 10 1940-December 20 2006

Ken Anderson was one of the first of a new breed of environmental engineers.

In his life he and his generation transformed engineering for the protection of the environment from a fringe activity to the core business for engineers it is today.

Born in Watford in 1940, Ken's father, George, was a joiner from Newcastle.

But Ken was a bright child and he excelled in his studies at Watford Grammar School for Boys.

So much so that he came up to the Newcastle-based Kings College of Durham University to study civil engineering under Professor PCG Isaac, and this became public health engineering.

With the support of the Rockefeller foundation, Isaac founded a problem-oriented team of biologists, chemists and engineers decades before the importance of multidisciplinary cooperation was widely realised.

Ken graduated with a First Class Degree, induced to join the team and began a PhD in 1961.

While in Newcastle, he kept in touch with Janis, whom he had met at the church youth club in Watford.

They married in August 1963 possibly with some misgivings from her mother who, it appears, saw not the clever young engineer, but always the 15 year old Watford teddy boy.

Janis, now a teacher, supported Ken through his PhD.

In 1964 he was awarded the first PhD from the University of Newcastle.

He was also awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, where they had recently set up an Environmental Engineering Program under Rick Ryckman. A 1955 Chevrolet was somehow furnished for them and they visited 25 of the 50 states in one year.

Returning to the Watford area, he worked in consulting before finding a teaching position in Hatfield Polytechnic.

Two daughters were born ( Nicola (1967) and Emma (1968).

Rick Ryckman who was now organising a graduate program in Hawaii, wanted Ken to join him.

While visiting London, he invited Ken and Janis to dinner, offered the job and put the air-tickets on the table. They eventually succumbed and Ken became an assistant professor in the University of Hawaii.

In 1971, a telegram arrived to offer Ken a position at Newcastle University. …