James Thomas Humberstone

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James Thomas Humberstone (July 8, 1850 - June 12, 1939) was an English chemical engineer. In 1872, he founded the Peru Nitrate Company in the Tarapacá Province of Peru (now part of the Tarapacá Region of Chile). He introduced the Schanks System and other innovations to the industry.

Life[change | change source]

Humberstone was born in Dover, England. His grandfather had been director of the band of the Scottish Guard. His father worked in a post office.

His family moved to London when he was young. Humberstone worked for the London and North Western railway when he was 17. While he worked there, he learned about mechanics and chemistry. Later, he joined the Royal School of Mines in London. He was a very good student.

When he was 25, he was hired by The Tarapaca Nitrate Company and moved to South America. Humberstone arrived at the Peruvian port of Pisagua on January 6, 1875, where he commenced working as a chemist and engineer.

In 1878 he implemented the Shanks system to make sodium carbonate. He also made other changes such as the transfer of waste water to avoid losing the materials in the gravel.

In 1879 the Chilean army landed in Pisagua, and consequently, many office workers went to the Pampa for safety. Humberstone, his wife, his mother and his two daughters went with them. When they got to Tarapaca, the governor said they should go to Arica because the military was coming. They crossed the desert because they did not want to be near the coast. It took them twenty days to get get to Arica . When the war ended, and Tarapaca became part of Chile , Humberstone continued working in the Agua Santa office.

In 1936, King George VI made him a member of the Order of the British Empire. Humberstone died in Iquique on June 12, 1939 and is buried in the British Cemetery, Tiliviche, Chile.