JAIC 1997, Volume 36, Number 1, Article 3 (pp. 31 to 48)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1997, Volume 36, Number 1, Article 3 (pp. 31 to 48)

ALFRED LUCAS: EGYPT'S SHERLOCK HOLMES

MARK GILBERG



2 THE LABORATORY OF THE GOVERNMENT CHEMIST

Surprisingly little is known of Lucas's personal life. Much of what we do know derives from a handful of obituaries published soon after his death by several of his colleagues and close friends (Englebach 1945; Hurst 1945–46; Antiquities Journal 1946; Ball et al. 1946; Plenderleith 1946; Coremans 1946–47; Brunton 1947). They show he was born on August 27, 1867, in Charlton-upon-Medlock, Lancaster County, England. His father was listed as a commercial traveler or salesman. Lucas attended private schools in Manchester. In August 1891, after passing the entrance examinations in chemistry, physics, and mathematics, Lucas was appointed a student in the Inland Revenue Laboratory (Hammond 1993). At the time, all students were also required to attend a two-year course at the Royal School of Science (now known as Imperial College). Lucas successfully completed the course and in April 1893 was appointed temporary assistant.

The Inland Revenue Laboratory later became the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary with the publication of a comprehensive history of its work (Hammond and Egan 1992). The laboratory was initially formed for the purpose of analyzing the alcohol content of beer and wine imported into England to establish the required custom duties. Over the years, the laboratory's responsibilities were expanded to include the analysis of a wide variety of commercial products. The government chemists worked long hours, generally six days a week, performing tedious chemical analysis without the aid of modern analytical instrumentation. No doubt it was here that Lucas perfected his analytical skills, which were to serve him so well years later in Egypt.


Copyright 1997 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works