Cowper-Coles, Sherard Osborn 1866 - 1936

English; British

(1866-1936) Electro-Metallurgist

Sherard Osborn Cowper-Coles was born on the 8th October 1866 in Ventnor, Isle of Wight. Cowper-Coles was educated privately and at King's College, London, later studying at the Crystal Palace School of Engineering (1883–4) followed by research work at laboratories in London. He entered business as a mechanical engineer in 1888 but in late 1890 became manager of the London Metallurgical Company. He soon began work on electrodeposition, being awarded a silver medal, for the electrodeposition of silver-cadmium alloys, at the 1892 Crystal Palace Exhibition.

In 1893 Cowper-Coles again set up in business. In 1898 he won the Bessemer premium for research on protective metallic coatings for iron and steel, and gave a paper to the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) on an electrolytic process for making parabolic reflectors; for this process he was awarded a silver medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1900. He also got a gold medal at the St Louis Exhibition of 1904 and was awarded a grand prix for electrochemistry.

Cowper-Coles invented the sherardizing process, which electrolytically produced a zinc coating on iron and steel rendering them rustproof, which was patented in 1900. Numerous experiments leading to trial apparatus being established in a workshop in Danvers Street, Chelsea. This was so successful that a small company was formed and plant built at Willesden, however, by the 1930s, when companies had adequately qualified staff and better facilities, he had lost the patent rights. More than 900 British patents were taken out by Cowper-Coles, the first in 1885. His inventions included a sound recording instrument for detecting aircraft, special types of window glass and mowing machines.

Cowper-Coles became a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 1892, the Society of Chemical Industry, 1895, the IEE, 1897 and the Iron and Steel Institute in 1900. He became a fellow of the Royal Institution in 1898. In 1901 he had established the periodical Electrochemist and Metallurgist and was its editor. Cowper-Coles died on 9 September 1936 at his home, Rossall House, of cancer of the oesophagus.