Burch, Cecil Reginald (F.R.S.) 1901 - 1983


Cecil Reginald Burch, born on the 21th May 1901, was the fifth child of Professor and Mrs George James Burch. He, nor his older brother never liked the name Cecil, so his brother decided to call him Bill instead, a name which stuck.

After attending prep school and later Oundle he won a scholarship to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in December 1918. He left Cambridge with a second in 1922 and was offered a College apprenticeship by the Metropolitan-Vickers electrical Co Ltd for 2 years in the Spring of 1922.

During his Apprenticeship at Metro-Vicks he excelled at research and as a result his early work, with another apprentice, worked on an improved receiver in 1924. On the completion of his a little later that year he was put on the staff of the Physics Department in August 1924. Burch was responsible for developing the theory of induction heating and as a result during which he constructed a new water-cooled coil which could operate at 50Hz the furnace in which the coil was fitted was able to melt 100lb of non-ferrous metal in 30 minutes. This early work resulted in Metropolitan-Vickers being able to patent designs for an induction furnace capable of turning out 600 tons of high-grade steels in a day, all melted in an induction furnace.

As well as developing induction furnaces Burch also helped in the development of oils and greases with extremely low vapour pressures, he named them apiezon. His work on vacuum engineering eventually was recognised by The British Vacuum Council who allowed his name to be associated with a prize to young authors presenting the best paper on some aspect of vacuum engineering.

This work enabled the development of large high-powered thermionic valves, important components in radios transmitting over large distances. Burch, his brother Francis and J. H. Ludlow developed a valve used by the G.P.O. for sending transmissions from their Rugby transmitter in the early 1930s. After some more development work the team were ready to apply for a patent when, sadly his brother died from a transfusion of incompatible blood.

The high-powered tetrode valve was on display at the works when a visiting group of engineers from the Institute of Electrical Engineering visited. One of them Robert Watson-Watt was so impressed with the amount of radio power that he immediately went away and asked the Air Ministry to order the valves for work he was conducting on detecting aircraft., later to become known as Chain Home.

Unfortunately for Metropolitan-Vickers the death of Francis hit Burch very hard. They had both shared the same digs in Stretford from 1922 until his death in 1933, as well as working in the same department at Metro-Vicks. He decided that he should have a clean break from working and living in the area and therefore applied to Imperial College and obtained a Leverhulme Research Studentship under the supervision of Professor G. P. Thomson. He left Metro-Vicks in September 1933.