50th Anniversary: The early days of Filtration+Separation

Mike Taylor at FILTECH in 2011.
Mike Taylor at FILTECH in 2011.
The world of filtration and separation has changed significantly over the past 50 years.
The world of filtration and separation has changed significantly over the past 50 years.

Filtration+Separation (or Filtration & Separation as it was originally known) was the brainchild of Bill Norris, its first publisher. The ‘trade press’ was starting to flourish by the early 1960s and Bill Norris had the vision to launch an international publication dedicated to the field of filtration and separation. “Filtration technology was advancing quickly at the time and rapid progress was being made worldwide,” explains Mike Taylor. “There was a ready market for a specialist journal with international appeal. English was considered the most suitable language for the publication, because chemical and process engineers, as well as buyers and users of equipment and research institutes working with filtration and separation technologies, all co-operated in English, as they do today.” Mike continues: “In the early 1960s, the trade press based in the United Kingdom mainly consisted of publications serving specific industries. Those involved in a particular industry, paid a subscription and then usually received a monthly or bi-monthly magazine. Others were distributed to members of learned societies, for example The Chemical Engineer or Process Engineering. Filtration & Separation was a bit different at the time as its circulation, which was all paid for, cut across many industries. Filtration and separation technologies had such a wide appeal that crossed a great many industrial boundaries.”

The Filtration Society

The original magazine was launched in 1963, but as two journals - Filters and Filtration Engineering & Technology. A year later these were merged to form Filtration. Bill Norris founded a company called Uplands Press Ltd in Purley, Surrey in the south of England to publish the journal. The Uplands name came from the local GPO telephone exchange code for the area. However, the origins of Filtration & Separation, would be followed closely by the formation of The Filtration Society in 1964. “Since returning to civilian life in 1945, Bill had acquired a lot of experience in the trade press through working on the Manufacturing Chemist,,” explains Mike. “He was also involved editorially on several publications on behalf of the Institute of Directors, who were based in offices in Belgrave Square in London. Many industry leaders often gathered in their offices, which in 1964 resulted in key players in the filtration world starting The Filtration Society under the guidance of Bill Norris. The aims were to disseminate knowledge regarding filtration and separation worldwide and its first chairman was Professor H.K Suttle, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the newly created University of Loughborough. Bill Norris was its first Honorary Secretary. The name of the journal was changed to Filtration & Separation, which also published the proceedings of the Society. Members paid a yearly subscription and received a copy of the journal six times a year. The publication rapidly gained popular support worldwide, both inside and outside the Society, with the industry, filter users, manufacturers, researchers and academics all subscribing. Chapters of the Filtration Society soon became established in a number of parts of the world, including the United States, The Netherlands, Belgium, the Nordic countries, South Africa and South America. This all helped to widen the international appeal of the Society and Filtration & Separation.”


“I joined Uplands Press in 1966 as the Advertisement Manager - a post I held until 1991,” adds Mike Taylor. “However, I had known Bill since the start of the 1960s, as the trade press was a very tight knit community in those days. Having already been involved with several trade exhibitions, I had the task of organising the FILTECH conference and exhibitions held in Olympia, London. FILTECH started life in 1964, as an add-on to the journal and the Society. It grew very quickly as a bi-annual event at Olympia. From the outset, it attracted an international gathering and always had a conference associated with the exhibition. I began to travel widely selling exhibition stands for the events. ACHEMA in Frankfurt was expanding rapidly at the time and this became increasingly important to us as the German market grew. The first non-United Kingdom FILTECH was held in The Netherlands. However, so many visitors and exhibitors attended from Germany that we moved the event to Karlsruhe, then Düsseldorf, and since 2005 we have been in Wiesbaden. In 2000 I formed a separate company in Germany with my business partner Suzanne Abetz. I finally retired in 2011, but the FILTECH conference and exhibition is now bigger and more international than ever.”

Publishing in the 60s

“The world of publishing today bears no resemblance to publishing in the 1960s,” Mike reflects. “Our offices soon moved to central Croydon, but there was none of the equipment or services that you would find in a modern publishing set-up. There were no computers, faxes or photocopiers, and not only was there no internet or mobile phones, direct dial telephone connections were few and far between also. There were four of us involved with Filtration & Separation in those days. Everything to be published had to be typed by hand and in 1970 we bought two very expensive electric typewriters. Every evening I took the copy to our printers in Redhill for typesetting. A print messenger then bought back the proofs in the morning. Everything was printed by the Letterpress process (hot metal) and most printers worked overnight to provide this service. Photographs, illustrations, graphs and diagrams all had to have blocks made. Firms making blocks provided an equally fast overnight service. Once the proofs had been passed, the journal was printed. It was impossible to make corrections after the proofs were approved and everything was published – with the exception of errors and omissions (E & OE). There were no databases at that time, so all records including subscribers were kept on cards filed in ‘ABC’ boxes. This was time consuming work and every office had a filing clerk who was worth their weight in gold.” Mike continues: “Most of the editorial came from news items that had been sent by manufacturers, and papers that had been presented at Filtration Society meetings worldwide. We also carried articles written by experts in their field, and had a number of regular features, such as ‘Filtrates’ contributed by Derek Purchas. People in the industry were delighted to be published in a well-respected magazine. PR was important, even back then. The Filtration Society and Filtration & Separation had its own PR firm, Pressaids. This was run by Maureen Duck, who gathered and wrote much of the copy through personal contacts and using ‘cuttings’ services. Maureen continued this service until she died in 1986.” “Within two years, we had an audited circulation of over 4,000 – 1,600 went to Society members and the rest to users and manufacturers,” Mike adds. “In those days free magazines were almost unknown. The main method to promote sales was direct mail, which for a worldwide circulation was an expensive thing to do.”

Bill Norris

“Nothing stays the same,” concludes Mike Taylor. “The United Kingdom-based Filtration Society and its Chapters went their separate ways, but I still enjoy many of the contacts from that association. In addition, Filtration+Separation is now published by Elsevier, part of the global Reed Elsevier publishing group. However, we owe everything to Bill Norris for starting Filtration+Separation. Bill continued to captain the ship until ill health forced his retirement in 1983. Sadly he did not live long afterwards to enjoy the rewards of his labour.”