Obituary Giovanni (Jan) Guidoboni CEng FIChemE, 1940–2021

Article by John Challenger CEng FIChemE

JAN Guidoboni, a long-time Fellow of IChemE, winner of the Donald Medal 1996 for “outstanding services to the field of biochemical engineering”, and hugely experienced chemical engineer died in February, aged 80. Jan spent much of his working career in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors and worked on several novel processes, particularly involving fermentation and related technologies of sterile engineering and containment technology.

Jan was born in Nottingham, UK, to an Italian father and British mother who had married prior to World War II. His father was a highly respected engineer who specialised in the design and installation of weaving machines for the fabric industry. Jan remembered the difficulties his family experienced during the war, when his father, as a foreign national was detained for 2 years on the Isle of Man. In the post-war period his father worked abroad and an extended period in Brazil gave Jan his enthusiasm for learning foreign languages and for travel.

After secondary school in Nottingham, Jan secured employment with Laporte Titanium, which sponsored him to undertake a sandwich degree course at Bradford University. Here, he met Patty, who would become his wife of 56 years. Jan always acknowledged the enormous benefit provided by this training and he developed an uncanny knack of accurately estimating the outturn costs of new chemical facilities, based on very limited data.

In 1964 he joined Distillers Company (now BP Chemicals) where researchers developed a technology for producing single-cell protein, and in 1969 Jan transferred to BP Proteins to lead the process design of a pilot plant in Grangemouth. He subsequently moved to Milan and then Sardinia where the construction of a full-scale plant was undertaken. Jan returned to Nottingham in 1976 to become Process Engineering Manager at The Boots Company, a post he held for several years until he joined Constructors John Brown in 1981 after a short time working on Xanthan at Talres Development. At this time John Brown was embarking on a major expansion into the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, and Jan’s knowledge and experience allowed him to provide process leadership on a wide range of projects both in the UK and overseas.

It was during this time that Jan and I worked on a major study for the UN Industrial Development Organization on the future development of the fine chemical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and food industries in Hungary. Our long friendship led us to discuss the formation of a process engineering consultancy that would establish a new way of executing projects in the bio-pharmaceutical industry. This long-held idea came to fruition in 1986 and Jan was a Senior Partner at GRC Consultants until his retirement in 1997.

Throughout his professional career Jan truly believed in the important role of mentoring young engineers. From 1986-1994 he was a Visiting Industrial Lecturer at Imperial College London and from 1996-2005 he was Visiting Industrial Professor at the University of Surrey. Throughout his career Jan supported IChemE and was a committee member of the East Midlands Branch from 1976-1980.

After his retirement, Jan devoted much of his time to his beloved family and his church activities. However, he did not entirely leave process engineering behind and would occasionally take on consultancy projects that interested him!

Jan will be deeply missed by his wife Patty, his children Moira and Tony and their families. He will also leave a major hole in the lives of all those who had the privilege to know him. He had a great zest for life, a dry sense of humour and extensive knowledge, which he shared freely to support and benefit others.

Article by John Challenger CEng FIChemE

VMIC Process & Project Consultant

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