Joseph William Mellor was an Otago graduate who became a ceramicist, a cartoonist, and a famous chemist. Indeed, his single-handed effort to complete his 16 volume definitive work A Comprehensive Treatise on Inorganic and Theoretical Chemistry (1922-1937), amounting to over 16 million words, has never been equalled. From humble beginnings and self-initiated study at King Edward Technical School, Mellor obtained a place at the University of Otago, where he won a scholarship to study at Owens College, Manchester. As Principal of the Technical College (now part of Staffordshire University) at Stoke-on-Trent, he worked on refining refractory processes, especially high-temperature ceramics relevant to the steel industry. Because of his contribution to the World War One effort he was offered a peerage, which he turned down.

Mellor retained a boyish sense of humour all his life, and he was dubbed by colleagues the 'Peter Pan of Ceramics'. He was also a skilled cartoonist and his Uncle Joe's Nonsense (1934) contains a collection of humorous stories illustrated with clever pen sketches. In 1927 he was elected to the Royal Society for work related to ceramics, and just before he died in May 1938, he was awarded a C.B.E.

This exhibition highlights Mellor's life, work and legacy. It covers his early years in Kaikorai Valley and work at Sargood's Boot Factory; his study at the University of Otago; his marriage to Emma Bakes; his many publications; his friends and contemporaries; and his involvement in ceramic societies world-wide. Annual memorial lectures, a Mellor Professorship at Otago, and a Mellor street and park in Kaikorai Valley, Dunedin, continue his legacy. His personal archives, ceramics and books are found at Special Collections, University of Otago, the Otago Museum, and the Heritage Collection, Dunedin Public Library.

Special thanks to Mellor Professor Lyall Hanton and Theresa Mendoza for their work in curating this exhibition.

In the Beginning