11 October 2018: A larger than life character with an enormous range of both expertise and friends.
Paul Frost, a well known, well respected and well liked figure in the lead industry, died on September 30 after a short illness. He had been unwell for some time but his death was sudden and unexpected.
Paul was best known for his work at Britannia Refined Metals, which he joined as a business development metallurgist in November 1996. Brian Wilson, who recruited him, recalls: “Paul was an outstanding candidate for the job, he had a huge range of technical knowledge and he soon proved his worth. He was also an outstanding person to work with.”
Paul’s career was never a conventional one and never a predictable route to become a worldwide authority on lead.
Born in 1952, he left school aged 16 and spent the first years of his working life as a metallurgical apprentice with the UK’s defence ministry.
In 1972, after completing his apprenticeship, he moved to Imperial College, London as a research technician. The college — the full name is officially The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine —then, as now, one of the most celebrated technological educational institutions in the world.
Imperial College gave Paul a foundation that he was to build on until the end of his life.
In a move that would surprise many in the industry, Paul, apparently the quintessential Englishman, quit everything in 1975 and spent a year as a volunteer on a kibbutz in Galilee in the north of Israel.
It was just over a year after the Egyptian-Syrian attack, known as the Yom Kippur War, on the country. Paul woke up each morning with the Golan Heights — the front line between Israel and Syria — dominating his view.
On his return to England, Paul moved to Kidlington, north of Oxford, in 1977 to work for the Cookson Group in its technology centre, initially as a researcher but eventually as a senior research scientist. As part of his remit he also supported Cookson’s lead business.
In 1994 he moved to become chief metallurgist, mainly focusing on product development for Calder Industrial Materials.
In 1996 he started work at Britannia Refined Metals, a firm he held in high regard and with great affection right up to his death.
At Britannia Paul worked in a variety of positions — all related to his appointment as business development metallurgist — but essentially as the in-house expert on all things lead. However, poor health meant that he spent the last year of his life working as a consultant for Britannia.
Florian von Steinkeller, Britannia’s executive general manager, described Paul as having a “deep, profound understanding of lead and its applications, an outstanding attention to detail … we all had a deep respect for his knowledge and abilities.
“I used to say to Paul that he was the oil in the machinery guaranteeing smooth production as well as outstanding customer support. He was well respected by everyone for his unbeatable knowledge of lead processing. I haven’t met many people with such a deep understanding of lead.
“He was also a real character and a thoroughly nice guy.”
Peter Hawkins, a close friend of Paul and colleague since his first days at Britannia, said that in addition to his technical knowledge he had many endearing qualities. “When he travelled on business he liked to do so in comfort but arriving at the airport one time in lounge moccasins was maybe just a bit too comfy.
“But at the same time he formed an enormous rapport with customers, often solving manufacturing problems totally unrelated to our supply of lead. He was just knowledgeable about so many things … from high voltage cable extrusion to fast cars. His last car was a beauty, a sports coupe Mercedes.”
Farid Ahmed, who knew Paul for more than two decades as colleague, collaborator and friend, said: “Paul and I spent a good deal of time together when we were both at Britannia Refined Metals, and later at various conferences and events, and I always thoroughly enjoyed his company.
“His encyclopaedic technical knowledge was superb — there seemed scarcely a question on lead that he couldn’t answer. More importantly, he was very generous with his time and took genuine delight in helping people throughout the industry improve the quality of our research and products.
“Paul’s eyes would light up when talking about subjects about which he was passionate — and there were many, such as good food, fine wine, real ale and, of course, the lead industry. He was both universally respected and liked throughout the profession, excellent company to be with, and a true gentleman of the lead industry.”
Paul was known on the conference circuit as an occasional speaker but more generally as an advocate for better communications within the industry to create a better understanding of lead recycling.
In a white paper published in 1999, his views on the future of the industry were remarkably prescient when he argued for the need for a better dialogue between car manufacturers, battery manufacturers and lead producers. He was particularly keen on bringing end users more fully into the recycling loop.
He also argued in the same white paper, and well ahead of his time, that life cycle analysis … “was a sometimes sterile exercise if approached in the wrong way and lead, which suffers from a knee-jerk antipathy in many areas, including governments, regulators, pressure groups, and even in some areas the general public” would be able to make the case for the chemistry.
Paul also made a significant input into the International Lead Association’s early discussions over the REACH regulations introduced in the EU in 2006. REACH seeks to restrict and finally ban the use of certain chemicals, including lead.
Von Steinkeller, who has been chairman of the ILA for the past five years, says: “Paul was instrumental in rebutting many of the REACH proposals for lead and the first industry defences were built around his arguments.”
Andy Bush, managing director of the ILA, said: “I remember Paul fondly from my very first days at ILA more than 20 years ago, and since then I have relied on his extensive knowledge of lead metallurgy. He was always an enthusiastic supporter of ILA and ALABC, never hesitating to help and provide advice. He was also great company, and will be sadly missed.”
Paul Frost is survived by his son Adam and daughter Jessica.
He will be remembered as an outstanding figure in the lead business and sorely missed for the contributions he made, and could yet have made had he lived, and the friendships he forged across the whole industry.
He was only 66 when he died.