Eric Smith, a stainless steel industry stalwart, was born in Sheffield, England in 1915. He graduated from Sheffield University in 1937 and was awarded the Mappin Medal for excellence in metallurgy. For the next 17 years Eric worked for Samuel Fox, the pioneer British stainless steel producer, Tube Investments and Hoffman Roller Bearings – all famous English companies.
In 1955 he emigrated to Africa with his young family, Gwen his devoted wife, two girls Bridget and Margaret and two boys Nicholas and Stephen.
He spent the next nine years at Rhodesian Alloys in Gwelo and Broken Hill (Pty) Ltd. He was then head hunted by Rand Mines for the RMB Alloys ferro chromium project and a new “top secret” stainless steel venture designed to use the poor grade Transvaal chrome ore.
As the first qualified steel and alloys metallurgist in the company Eric’s role was pivotal. He worked with the legendary Bleloch (the “B” in RMB Alloys) on the design of the then revolutionary ferro chromium project and on a new copper bearing stainless steel produced at Driehoek and rolled at Samuel Fox. The success of this work led to the commissioning of the Southern Cross Steel Mill in 1966.
In this period 1966 to 1969, Eric was both steel metallurgist and commissioning mill superintendent and was directly involved in technology transfer and market projections with Rand Mines and venture partner Eastern Stainless Steel – at that time the biggest plate and sheet producer in the world.
In 1970 Eric returned to Johannesburg to develop technical sales and in 1973 he joined the newly formed Market Development Division, where his technical wisdom was to materially assist in some of the great innovative thrusts of MS&A. These included
- The marketing proposal to develop a weldable 409 plate product (now 3CR12) which would overcome the limitations of the 430 “sugar mill” plate
- The introduction and management of the national ASM metallurgical training programme which he made an international success story
- The mammoth editorial job of creating the 3CR12 literature base for the 1984 International Conference.
Eric, a great but self effacing contributor, was not lost to the stainless steel industry on his retirement in 1985. He carried on as a most active and effective consultant to the Cape stainless industry, working in close co-operation with the University, distributors and the Cape wine industry.
Eric served on the Sassda Committee for many years.
Eric died on 21 September 1987. His friends and colleagues mourn his passing while the industry acknowledges his great contribution.