Research chemist was central in development of coffee

Chichester chemist Ronald James Clarke will be remembered for his work in the coffee industry.

Wednesday, 19th April 2017, 12:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:20 pm
Dr Ronald James Clarke was involved in developing standards for coffee and wrote a number of books on the subject

Dr Clarke was a consultant who was involved in developing standards for coffee and wrote a number of books on the subject.

He died peacefully on March 30, 2017, following two massive strokes.

Dr Clarke, known to many as Ronny, was born in Huddersfield on January 1, 1919, but lived most of his life in Chichester.

On gaining a first class honours degree in chemistry from Keble College, Oxford, in 1941, Ronald started work at Unilever in Port Sunlight, where he stayed for ten years.

From there, he moved to McDougall’s and food chemistry, a new area for him.

Various jobs followed and in 1957, he published his first book, Process Engineering in the Food Industry, which was well received.

It was also in 1957 that he started work on the subject that was to be his life work - coffee.

Ronald moved to General Foods, where he was involved in research to improve the quality and taste of instant coffee, from the green bean to the final product.

In 1967, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) and the British Standards Institution (BSI) started to develop standards in all aspects regarding coffee, including instant coffee. Ronald was there from the beginning and was president of the ISO from 1989 until 1997. He was also active in the Association Scientifique Internationale du Cafe (ASIC) and travelled extensively for both organisations.

Ronald retired from General Foods in 1983 and started editing, together with Robert Macrae, Coffee, in six volumes. These books, published between 1985 and 1988, are still considered to be standard works on coffee and cover all aspects of the subject from the chemistry, through agronomy to the commercial-legal issues. Two volumes were translated into Japanese.

During this time, and until he was about 90, Ronald worked as a consultant to many different companies, gave lectures, and in 2001 co-authored a book with Prof O.G. Vitzthum, Coffee – Recent Developments, another standard work in the world of coffee.

His last book followed in 2008, this time on Wine Chemistry, a subject which had always interested him, co-authored with Dr Jokie Bakker.

Ronald was a keen member of Goodwood Racecourse, attending all meetings from 1984 until 2016, and for a time a member of the Goodwood Racehorse Owners Group (GROG).

In his last years, he dedicated himself to restoring the Georgian house his father bought in 1940, and where he lived following his retirement, and working in his garden.

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