Dr Arthur W Fordham – by Richard Merry
Arthur Fordham was born in Brisbane on 30th October 1933.
Following the death of his father when he was 15, he entered the workforce and completed his schooling at night. He first joined CSIRO in Brisbane with the Division of Soils in 1950 as a technical assistant and completed a science degree, again while working. He then obtained first class honours and an MSc. He was awarded a CSIRO Overseas Studentship to study for a D Phil. at Oxford in the laboratory of RK Schofield. The subject of his D Phil was phosphate sorption on soil materials.
In 1960, on his return to Australia, he was appointed to the Division of Soils at the Waite Institute in Adelaide. It was there that he soon met his future life partner, Jean. He continued research work based largely on the sorption of ions onto clay-sized particles. This included the sorption and precipitation of iron on kaolinite in a series of five papers. He also developed an approach using autoradiography and microscopy to follow sorption processes, notably using arsenate-73 as a surrogate for phosphate.
During the 1970s he joined a team led by KG Tiller investigating toxic elements in an urban-rural transect and specifically investigated the elements in stream waters. He spent a year with his family in then West Germany working with U Schwertmann on phosphate in liquid cattle manure. He also worked with K Norrish using electron microprobe and microscope techniques to study soil clay particles.
In the late 1980s he worked on the weathering of mica and in the 1990s until his retirement in 1994, he was associated with the Minesite Rehabilitation Unit led by AR Milnes. With this group he was associated with work on coal, uranium and other mine waste materials.
Arthur quietly went about his research at CSIRO, was very supportive of younger staff members, considerate to all and was a great family man. He always drove a VW beetle. He was a gentle man and a gentleman. In his younger days he was very enthusiastic with participation in sport. He was a keen rugby player and at CSIRO in Adelaide enjoyed social cricket and squash. In lunch time squash we cannot recall him being beaten – whenever you thought you might have him, he resorted to unplayable drop shots to a back corner and you realised he was probably just prolonging the matches.
He passed away on the 20th February 2020 in Adelaide.