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Obituary: Dr Hari Narayan Sinha AM 1929-2023

John Floyd FAusIMM
ยท 800 words, 3 min read

The distinguished scientist and engineer, Dr Hari Narayan Sinha, died at age 94 on 7 July 2023.


Dr Sinha made significant contributions to research and development in extractive metallurgy, achieving valuable advances to the processing of ilmenite, alumina, phosphate rock and zirconia from Australian mineral deposit during his career in CSIRO and industry. Perhaps his most well-known engineering achievement was the invention and development of the Murso process for production of synthetic rutile from ilmenite, which was taken to large-scale pilot trials in Japan. However, it was to his lasting regret that a production plant was not built.

Born into a large family in Roorkee, India, he excelled at school and went on to a degree in metallurgical engineering at the esteemed Banaras Hindu University (BHU). In 1951, just a year after graduating, he became a lecturer in Metallurgical Engineering at BHU before receiving one of the first Columbo Plan Fellowships. This allowed him to carry out research towards a PhD at University of Melbourne, supervised by the renowned Professor Howard Worner, on the production of titanium via halide chemicals. Hari was a gregarious and active member of the student body. At this time he met Ann Beckett, a student who had taken up Indian Classical dancing, and after returning to India in 1956 they were married in Hari’s home town of Roorkee.

Dr Sinha joined the teaching staff of BHU as Reader in Chemical Metallurgy. He then took a position in the newly established Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bombay. Following three years as Assistant Professor at Bombay (Mumbai) IIT, he accepted a Post Doctoral position with the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering at Melbourne University in 1961.

After a productive series of research projects there, he took the position of Senior Research Scientist in the CSIRO Division of Mineral Chemistry and started research and development of his proposal to improve the processing of ilmenite. He gained the support of the company Murphyores which led to the development of the Murso Process for production of high-grade rutile. As Murphyores Research Manager Dr Sinha took this process into industrial trials by Mitsubishi.

Unfortunately the work did not lead to a commercial process and Hari returned to research work at CSIRO. He carried out many significant developments into hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical processes during his continuing research career, including the hydrochloric acid leaching of silica from bauxite ore and coal washery waste, the regeneration of hydrochloric acid from ferrous chloride, the production of high purity zirconia and the production of fertiliser from low grade phosphate rock.

Dr Sinha received many awards and honours for his technological achievements including the Distinguished Alumni Award of BHU, the 1987 Ceramic Achievement Award from the Australian Ceramic Society and the 1987 Sir Ian McLennan Achievement for Industry Award for the high purity zirconia process which was commercialised with ICI Australia.

In 1986 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering of which he chaired the Victorian Division. Dr Sinha was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to science and technology and to Australian-Indian relations in 1990 and in 2001 the Centennial Medal. He is a life member of the Indian Institute of Metals and was a Member and Fellow of AusIMM for over half a century.

Dr Sinha retired as Deputy Chief of the Division of Mineral Products in 1993. Still full of ideas and energy he joined the Chemical Engineering Department at University of Melbourne as an honorary Professorial Associate and continued researching towards improving industrial processing of ilmenite and associated minerals, which included spending many months in India working on improving the operations of kilns for the drying and roasting of ores. He was author or co-author of 110 technical papers, reports and patents.

This very brief outline of Dr Sinha’s professional achievements gives no idea of his humanity and generosity displayed in helping young technologists and taking all opportunities to help people in need. He was involved in many organisations seeking to establish and develop improved relationships between Australians and people of other countries. He was a founding president of the Australia India Society and of the Indian Descendent Engineers and Scientists (IDEAS). Hari was  a life member of Community Aid Abroad which is now part of Oxfam. His contributions to assisting those in need continue through his charitable foundation managed by his family.

Dr Sinha was mentor and inspiring teacher to many young people starting out in the profession of metallurgy. He was dedicated to achieving industrial improvements throughout his career, always available and willing to help colleagues and friends, humble and sincere.

He is survived by his daughters Mindi and Lisa, son-in-law Peter, granddaughter Vilani and his extended family and friends in India and Australia.

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