Supporting the gas industry since 1863
Date14th March 2018
Time18:00 - 20:30
VenueNo 11 Cavendish Square, London
Price Free (Members) £50.00 (Non-Members)
All prices exclude VAT


No 11 Cavendish Square, 11-13 Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0AN

Contact Details:

Linda Mee tel 01509 678184

“Engineering a Future for All – the power of education, research and innovation”

About Sir Denis Rooke

Sir Denis Rooke was Britain’s most distinguished gas engineer and a famously combative chairman of British Gas during its transition from nationalised industry to private enterprise. He was also IGEM President in 1975.


Sir Denis stamped his formidable personality on the gas industry over three decades. Having led the development of natural gas supply from the North Sea in the 1960s, he became deputy chairman of the British Gas Corporation in 1972 and was its chairman from 1976 to 1989.

Rooke’s viewpoint was that of an engineer who judged empirically and straightforwardly what worked best for his industry, rejecting ideological alternatives. Unlike many nationalised industry bosses, he was a highly efficient manager, proud that his corporation was capable of generating profits.

Denis Eric Rooke was born in south-east London on April 2 1924, the son of a commercial traveller. His early schooling was interrupted by illness, which meant that he could not read or write until he was seven; but he worked hard to catch up, at Westminster City School and at Addey & Stanhope School.

He went on to study Engineering at University College, London, and from 1944 served with REME in Britain and India, rising to the rank of major. On leaving the Army in 1949 he joined the newly-nationalised South Eastern Gas Board as assistant mechanical engineer in its coal tar by-products works.

Before nationalisation, “town gas” had been extracted from coal by more than 1,000 small companies, operating old and dirty gasworks. As a source of heating, gas was expensive and old-fashioned compared to electricity or oil; and without major new investment the industry seemed set for irreversible decline. But in 1957 Rooke was seconded to the North Thames Gas Board to work on the possibilities of revolutionising the industry by the use of imported natural gas.

He went to the United States to investigate, and sailed on the first, storm-tossed, 23-day voyage from the Gulf of Mexico to Canvey Island in the Methane Pioneer, an experimental ship which proved the technology for bulk transport of liquefied gas at very low temperatures. This opened the way for commercial-scale imports of Algerian gas, the phasing out of coal, and the development of a national supply grid.

When natural gas was discovered in commercial quantities in the North Sea, Rooke took charge of bringing it into the national grid and organising the conversion of every gas appliance in the country to use the new fuel. He became a board member of the Gas Council (the predecessor of British Gas) in 1966.

Besides his dedication to gas, Rooke was passionately committed to education and standards in engineering. He was president of the Institute of Gas Engineers, the Association for Science Education and the Fellowship of Engineering, and chairman of the Science Museum.

He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1978 and awarded its Rumford Medal in 1986. He received the Prince Philip Medal of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1992.

He was also a board member of the British National Oil Corporation and the National Economic Development Council.

Rooke was appointed CBE in 1970 and knighted in 1977. In 1997 the Queen appointed him to the Order of Merit, a rare distinction for a corporate chief.

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