The Times/1946/Obituary/Henry Frank Heath
Science and Industry
If Sir Frank Heath, who dies suddenly at his home in London on Saturday at the age of 82, could not be said to have had two careers, he at any rate achieved two distinguished reputations: first as an educationist, then as the head of a new Government department. In each sphere he rendered important service at a critical juncture. In both cases his remarkable personality was the essential factor of success.
As its Academic Registrar while the University of London was taking to itself the enlarged powes and functions granted under the new constitution of 1900, Heath founded the academic technique of the largest, and in some respects the most complex of the English universities. In 1916 the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was founded as a matter of urgency arising out of the 1914-18 war. Heath, selected as its administrative head, organised the new department with exceptional skill, and understanding. He was made K.C.B in the year following.
Born in London on December 11, 1863, Henry Frank Heath was the eldest son of Henry Charles Heath, who was miniature painter to Queen Victoria and a prolific exhibit at the Royal Academy. His education was so far out of the usual that, after passing through Westminster School and University College, London, he spent three years at the then German University of Strassburg.[sic] From that divergence he had his knowledge of the languages and a wide and catholic outlook on life and letters, an equipment which helped him materially in his career. Returning home in 1890, his first appointment was as Professor of English at Bedford College for Women; at the same time he was lecturer at King's College in English language and literature. Going on to be Assistant Registrar and Librarian of the university from 1895 to 1901, his varied and distinguished service as Academic Registrar and Acting Treasurer from 1901 to 1903.
With the university and the incorporated colleges moving towards unity, Heath accepted in 1903 the important post of director of special studies and inquiries at the Board of Education in succession to the late Sir Michael Sadler. Within the same period he was also a member of the Advisory Committee to the Treasury on grants to university colleges and joint secretary to the Royal Commission on University Education in London. He added still more to his load by becoming Education Correspondent to the Government to the Government of India. Heath's best work, however — best in the sense of national importance — still lay ahead of him. When war broke out in 1914, the gap between science and industry was tragically revealed. Some effective means of overcoming the lack of those essential supplies for which our country had allowed itself to depend on other countries were urgently required.
For all that was imperative just the, heath was ideally the right man in the right place — sensing , as t were intuitively, what industry wanted, where exactly science could help, and just how the department could plan, adjust , and urge the whole business long to results. In 1925, on the Australian Government's request, Heath went out to the Commonwealth to inquire into the possibility between his department and similar organizations out there; he then, on the invitation of the New Zealand Government, went there for an inquiry along similar lines. In both countries his reports were followed by Acts of Parliament embodying his essential proposals. For this brilliant demonstration of British initiative and enterprise — the culmination of his departmental career — Heath was made G.B.E. on his return home.
Heath was first and foremost an administrative educationist with a marked talent for organization rather then a teacher or a man of letters. He wrote the chapters on English language and literature to the time of Elizabeth in "Social England," and he was co-editor with A. W. Pollard and others of the "Globe Chaucer." His wide experience and organizing bent made him much sought after as a member of public bodies and institutions. He was a member of the Royal Commission for the 1851 Exhibition, a Governor of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, and of the Imperial Institute, a member of the council of the Royal Albert Hall, and a member of the Colonial Office Research Committee. Always a believer in international cooperation, he was a supporter of the League of Nation throughout its life. From 1898 to 1903 he edited the Modern Language Quarterly.
Sir Frank Heath married twice. His first wife, who was Miss A, Eckenstein, died in 1893. He married secondly Frances Elaine, daughter of the late J. H. Sayer. She died in 1939. There were two sons of the marriage.