19th June

Catalyst to create new gallery – Harry Baker and 120 years of chlorine!

The Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum in Widnes, Cheshire, the only UK museum celebrating the history of the chemical industry, has been awarded a grant of £36,159 to create a new permanent exhibition entitled ‘Harry Baker and 120 years of chlorine’ which is being funded by an AIM Biffa Award, through their History Makers Project.


The new exhibition in a special Baker Gallery in Catalyst will celebrate the life and work of little-known local man but distinguished chemist, Dr Harry Baker (1859-1935), who was a student of two internationally famous chemists Professor Sir Henry Roscoe FRS in Manchester and Professor Robert Bunsen in Heidelberg. It will concentrate on his amazing work from 1897 onwards, (when he came with his family to Runcorn), on the development of chlorine production by the electrolysis of brine pumped from central Cheshire to the newly-opened factory of the Castner Kellner Alkali Company (later ICI, now Inovyn) at the site in Weston Point, Runcorn using the famous mercury rocking cells. The exhibition will depict how this work links with present day science, the many current and vitally-important uses of chlorine and chlorine products and the continued production of chlorine to this day, 120 years on, at the same site in Weston Point.  Chlorine has saved millions of lives worldwide in key areas of disinfection and still does.

The life and work of this fascinating man will be interpreted and brought to life for the first time, using items, photographs and information from the Catalyst archives that are currently not accessible or used. The development of this exhibition and gallery will create new resources which will include panels, interactives, activities and talks to inspire families and children to understand about the continued importance of chlorine and its uses and to relive through oral history the working lives of many local people. His legacy and influence locally and nationally were extensive as was his inspiration and educational assistance to his own children, two of whom, Professor Wilson Baker FRS and Professor Wright Baker FREng, went on to great scientific and technological achievements themselves.

The History Makers scheme funds museums to create new exhibitions that will inspire the public through the lives and achievements of extraordinary, historical figures. The scheme is managed by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM) and Biffa Award, a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to communities and environmental projects across the UK.

Project Manager, Catalyst Trustee and chemist, Dr Diana Leitch said “It has been the goal of Catalyst for some time to depict the work and influence of local industrial chemist, Harry Baker, and to highlight the importance of this local achiever and his achievements in chlorine production to both the local and wider world and to inspire young people to follow his example.   The AIM Biffa Award grant will now enable us to do that and we are extremely grateful to be receiving this money. I was born and brought up in Runcorn and came from a family who brought the salt to Runcorn and worked in the chemical industry in the area for generations as did many local people. Chlorine has benefitted humanity in numerous and diverse ways and still does and it will be a great pleasure to see this project unfold, the work of Harry Baker to be acknowledged and celebrated and the new Baker Gallery open in early 2019 “

Emma Chaplin, AIM Director said “We are delighted that Biffa Award History Makers has been able to give Catalyst the opportunity to fascinate and inspire a new generation of visitors with the story of Dr Harry Baker and his huge impact on science and the world we live in. We can’t wait to see the new gallery!”

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