Alan Masson

B.Sc. (Hons) Chemistry 1966

Your Time at the University

Born and schooled in Edinburgh, I decided to do my chemistry degree in Edinburgh for reasons of convenience and cost. A significant number of my school friends at George Watson’s College were going to do the same. However, my fundamental reason was that I found chemistry really interesting – I enjoyed the colours, gassy liquids, smells and occasional fires, and succeeded in achieving more of these at KB! My school chemistry teacher was an Edinburgh Ph.D graduate and I went on to do my Ph.D (albeit at the Heriot-Watt University) in the same specialization – structural polysaccharide chemistry. The school chemistry prize essay was judged by the late Prof. Tom Cottrell of E.U. Chemistry. Pity he didn’t award me the prize!

As to the classes, it’s a long time ago now and I recall enjoying what I would call those about “actual chemical reactions” rather than their physical and mathematical properties. (Maths was not one of my strong subjects and I believe I only passed Maths 1 at the third attempt.

Alan Masson

Outside of the lecture room and lab I enjoyed the social side, especially Saturday nights in the Men’s Union, mostly in the basement bar singing raucous songs which are no doubt banned today, and venturing upstairs occasionally to the “Union Palais”. I enjoyed listening to prominent politicians speaking at the EU Tory Club and I joined the Canoe Club which had a facility on Loch Tay. I did two years of geology – “G1” and “G2” - and really enjoyed week-long field trips to Ireland and Wales.

Every Christmas I worked for the Post Office, delivering mail up and down the tenement stairs in the Viewforth area. One summer I worked for SAI – Scottish Agricultural Industries in Leith – mixing experimental batches of chemical fertilizers.

Your Experiences Since Leaving the University

After my Ph.D,  I “sold my soul to industry” as my Professor put it, and joined the Kodak Research Laboratories in Harrow. My interest in photography, including developing and printing, and processing of colour slide film, had apparently impressed the interviewers. I worked with the processing of motion picture film (Eastmancolor), and I spent my career of 35 years in that market, “morphing” from a chemist to a motion picture engineer.

Next I joined the training department to run the Motion Picture group, providing courses for worldwide customers and staff. I made a trip to Nigeria to run a course on the processing of 16mm news film for the Export Department and then transferred to that department, travelling as a technical specialist to Nigeria, Iceland, Malta and Eastern Europe.

Then to the European Region office of Eastman Kodak Company, travelling in Western Europe. My boss was an American. He invited me to move to Kodak HQ in Rochester NY as Director of Product Planning, working with customers on improvements to current film stocks and then with R&D to implement them, including trade testing.  

My final move was to the Hollywood office as Director of Engineering, responsible for all technical matters with Eastmancolor film in the studios, labs, and sound- and post-production houses. One project was the introduction of a new type of sound track which required much less chemicals and water in processing and resulted in my receiving a share of a Technical Oscar for the project.

I retired at 60 and moved back to Rochester where I lectured in film preservation at George Eastman House.

In 2009 my wife and I returned to Edinburgh where I have re-connected with chemistry friends and organized the 50th anniversary reunion of the Class of 1966 and established a website for it. 

Alumni Wisdom

I have a Powerpoint presentation about my career and I think my opening joke sums it up:

“You know, I joined Kodak to have a really interesting time, not to make a lot of money, and I have to tell you that I achieved both of those objectives!”