Tuesday, 6 March 2012

An Icon of Mineral Processing: Arthur F. Taggart

At the recent SME Meeting in Seattle, the prestigious Arthur F. Taggart Award recipients were MEI Award winner Peter Amelunxen, and FLSmidth’s Dave Meadows. The Arthur F. Taggart Award, established in 1970, is made for the paper or series of closely related papers with at least one common author, which in the opinion of the Awards Committee represents a notable contribution to the science of minerals processing.

But I wonder how many of the young people in the audience were aware of who Arthur Taggart was and what he achieved in his lifetime.

Arthur Taggart was born in 1884 and in 1919, at the age of 35, became the first person to be awarded a Chair in Mineral Dressing, at the Columbia School of Mines in New York. In 1927 he published his massive tome Handbook of Ore Dressing, which was updated and published again in 1945 as the seminal Handbook of Mineral Dressing. This became the mineral processors bible, and could be found in virtually every mine office around the world. I know when I arrived on the Zambian Copperbelt in 1969 it was the only book on the shelf, and was my first guide to mineral processing. It was part text book, but also a workshop manual for all aspects of operating a mill. The text book elements were published in 1951 as Elements of Ore Dressing. These were just some of the mineral processing books that he published, including texts on crushing, gravity concentration and flotation.

This is all that I know of Arthur Taggart. He died in 1959 but I am sure that there are some old processors out there who actually met him, or have stories and anecdotes. If so, it would be great to hear from you.


  1. Barry, here is additional information: Taggart graduated from Stanford University in 1909, went to Bolivia in 1910 on a technical assignment, on his return in 1911 he joined Yale University as assistant professor, then moved to Columbia in 1919 to occupy the chair of Mineral Engineering. He retired in 1951 and was succeeded by Nathaniel Arbiter (1911-2008). Incidentally, when I joined Anaconda Reaseach Department in 1967 all Taggart books were in the Library but the Director decided not to take them, together with many other old books, to Arizona when the Department was moving to its new laboratories in Tucson. I took them in my personal luggage. When I moved to Laval University in 1970 I took them with me. Recently, I donated the whole collection to our Library in a new section specially devoted to history of mining and metallurgy. You can have a look on this section at http://www.bibl.ulaval.ca/mieux/chercher/portails/genie/genie_mines/genie_mines_histoire. The text in the web site is in French and in English. It includes a portrait of Taggart. Fathi Habashi

    1. Thanks for this Fathi

    2. Hi Barry

      I came across this a while ago and saved it to reply later, only to forget about it until now. Arthur Taggart was my grandfather, of whom I was the eldest grandchild. His middle child, my mother was Lois Taggart Hall. I was born in Buffalo, NY in 1943 and during the war while my father was in Norway as a military correspondent, the family moved to Arthur and Ruth's home at 19 Donellan Rd. in Scarsdale. It was a modest two story on a quarter acre lot, and I clearly remember my grandfather's laboratory in the basement, complete with beakers, test tubes and Bunson burners. I still have a sampling of the equipment that he gave me years later.

      We were with my grandparents for probably less than a year, and it was during that time that Grandpa was working on the first draft of the Handbook of Mineral Ore Dressing. He must have thought I had some potential, or maybe just wanted the company, because he would regularly collect me up from sleep at around 4:00 AM and bundle me onto his lap in a crocheted blanket to watch and keep him company while he wrote out page after page longhand on foolscap yellow pads, accompanied by his always burning unfiltered Lucky Strikes and cups of black coffee.

      Of course at the time I was oblivious to my grandfather's exceptional accomplishments and his future fame, but I thought you might find it interesting to hear this personal detail. By the way, my mother always told us that Arthur Taggart was considered by his students and colleagues to be one tough task master, but he held those standards for himself as well. With his busy schedule and all the academic and professional demands on his life, he was also club champion at Scarsdale Golf Club several years running.

      Christopher Taggart Hall

    3. Many thanks for this Chris. I am sure people will be interested in this

    4. Barry

      I guess on re-reading this my timing is a bit off. I see he wrote the first draft in the late '20's, so this must have been the revisions to a later edition. At my tender age then my fuzzy recollection of the details can probably be forgiven, but my impression of the man as his grandson is vivid even so. In my mind and heart he was a kind soul, full of humor and energy, and very interested in his family and their welfare.

      Christopher Taggart Hall


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