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VIVIAN FITZGEORGE ESTCOURT 1897-1985 BY JAMES N. LANDIS VIVIAN FITZGEORGE ESTCOURT cTied in San Francisco on May ~ I, 1985. He was one of many Stanford University engineer- ing graduates who have attained distinction. In 1963 he was macle an honorary life member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers "for distinguished engineering lead- ership in plant design, operation, organization, anc} manage- ment of modern electric power generating facilities." Three years later the Franklin Institute awarcled him the Newcomen GoIc! Medal in Steam and the Newcomen Society macle him an honorary life member. During his long profes- sional life, he declicated his highly analytic abilities to improv- ing the quality and cost-effectiveness of steam electric plants. His brother, a public accountant eleven years his junior, says of Mr. Estcourt, "Without the guidance of a wise father and the loving and tender care of a wonclerful mother, none of us couIct have done what we have done." Mr. Estcourt's father was an English barrister-at-law; at the time of Vivian~s birth in the Hammersmith section of Lonclon on May 3l, IS97, the family also included two daughters, ages seven and three. Vivian's early education took place at King Edwarcl's School, a prestigious English public school in Birmingham. On his arrival in the United States in 1912, he attenclecl Low- ell High School in San Francisco, where he was a member of 157
158 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES the Debating Society in ~ 9 ~ 3. He later entered Stanford Uni- versity to study engineering and while there participated in soccer, figure skating, and hiking in the High Sierras with the younger of his sisters anct her friends. Vivian joined the U.S. Army Mectical Corps, driving am- bulances in France anc! training other cirivers for the job. He was discharged on November 5, 1921, and became a U.S. citizen on December 29, 1921. Because of his army service, he did not graduate from Stanford until 1922; he finisher! with two bachelor of arts degreesone in mechanical engi- peering and one in electrical engineering. After graduation, he worked for seven months as a design ciraftsman for the Nevada Consolidated Copper Company ant] then joined the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), an affiliation that was to last from 1923 to 1964. In 1923 PG&E was a hyciro company that tract a single small steam plant, although its steam plant capacity would eventu- ally undergo a perio(1 of major expansion. After a short time, Mr. Estcourt became an efficiency engineer in charge of power plant betterment work, a post he retained for eight years. Thereafter, he rose through several successive positions of responsibility and finally became manager of the Steam Gen- eration Department. As manager he was in charge of a sys- tem of more than four million kilowatts produced by thermal power plants burning gas, oil, delayed coke, fluid coke, sul- fonated tar, pitch, and acid sludge, and including the very early Vallecitos and Humboldt Bay nuclear stations, the Gey- sers geothermal plant, ant! a city business area steam heating plant. A major responsibility he assumed early in his utility ca- reer was that of manning several steam plants (luring a time when the San Francisco area had almost no steam plant per- sonne] on which to draw. For years in his operation of the plants, Mr. Estcourt required that the log sheets be made in triplicate, with one copy coming to his office.for personal
VIVIAN FITZGEORGE ESTCOURT 159 review. Significant verbal reports were required to be con- firmed in writing. As one station-operating subordinate re- ports, "Estcourt ran the show ... did not tolerate short- comings in people ... wanted to know everything ... was extremely interested in personnel training . . . kept aloof . . . was very perceptive and always agreeable to making changes to aid operation no matter who might suggest them." Today, this is caller! hands-on management. He wrote seven papers from 1936 to 1953 that illustrate the very wicie range of his mechanical, chemical, and electri- cal interests. One in particular dealt with generator end-iron heating and stability when operating large generators in the unclerexcitecl region for control of system voltage, thereby extending the load range for this type of operation. Using much firsthand personal experience, he prepared two addi- tional papers: "Manpower and Other Factors Affecting Op- erating Costs in Generating Stations" (ASME 53-A-95) and "Plant Management and Other Factors Affecting Mainte- nance Costs" (ASME 55-A-871. These two papers received the 1955 Prime Movers Award of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for best international contribution on power plant operations. For several years Mr. Estcourt was chairman of the Edison Electric Institute Prime Movers Equipment Availability Sub- committee. The extremely important committee work that he spearheaded consisted of collecting and analyzing power plant steam generator anct turbine generator equipment availability statistics as reported by nearly all the companies that were members of the Edison Electric Institute. Mr. Estcourt also became active in power station stack dis- charge research, which at that time was of great concern to public authorities ant! the utility industry. He was soon se- lectecI as the chairman of the Edison Electric Institute/U.S. Public Health Service Joint Steering Committee for Stack Plume Opacity Measurement and Evaluation Research. For a period of six or more years, Mr. Estcourt devotee! a
160 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES great deal of his time to encouraging graduating engineers to work in the utility industry. He wrote three papers in con- nection with this industry recruitment activity while serving as the American Society for Mechanical Engineers represen- tative on the Engineers Council for Professional Develop- ment Accreditation Team for Engineering Colleges. From 1962 through 1964 Mr. Estcourt continued nits as- sociation with PG&E as a consulting engineer in thermal power production. Late in 1963 he joined the Bechte! Power Corporation as a consulting engineer. He remained! with Bechte] through 1984, completing many assignments to im- prove plant availability, reduce capital and operating costs, and develop a means of reducing stack emissions. The unsatisfactory performance of electrostatic precipita- tors in collecting ash from low-sulfur coals lecl him to intro- cluce the "European Design" electrostatic precipitator in this country for high-efficiency performance with western low- sulfur coals. Mr. Estcourt recognized the need to standardize the measuring ant! reporting of electrical fly ash character- istics to permit the proper sizing of precipitators, and he formed and chaired an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers committee to address this matter. In the field of sulfur dioxide emission control, he combined the spray dryer and baghouse concepts and was a driving force in the clevel- opment and application of this dry sulfur dioxide control system, an approach that is now widely accepted. He pro- ducecl four papers in his eightieth and eighty-first years. Although Mr. Estcourt was a distinctive individual who cir- culatec! broadly, he was also a very private person and never cliscussect his background and experiences. In 1929 he mar- ried Helen Grant, a lovely California lady and companion. The two traveled extensively; their trips included a safari to Africa and travels to many other locales outside the Uniter! States. Mr. Estcourt was elected to the National Academy of En- gineering in 1981. He was a member of numerous other so- cieties throughout his professional life, serving on many .
VIVIAN FITZGEORGE ESTCOURT 161 committees and generally ascending to the chairmanship of the committees in which his interest was greatest. He always attended conventions alone. He would sometimes surprise associates at the convention social gatherings by dancing very ably with their wives behavior that seemed completely out of character for the man associates thought him to be: that is, someone possessing solely technical interests. Some of his personal character traits are revealer} by the statements of several individuals who worked closely with him. From a secretary of many years: "He appeared to use every moment in a disciplined way." An office technical asso- ciate noted these characteristics: "His inquisitive nature pro- pelled him into investigating a subject of interest until he understood it fully; and he tenaciously followed through on any program until his objectives were achieved. He had little patience with ignorance or stupidity but was always ready to take an interest in and assist young, promising, eager engi- neers." One of two manufacturers' representatives who dealt a lot with him sail: "He was always on the look-out for a 'snow- job'; he demanded honesty and appreciated it!" The other observed: "My discussions with him were very enlightening to me. ~ felt he was my friend. He gave willingly of his time when questioned but answers were not expansive." Mr. Estcourt was never able to enjoy, except in brief antic- ipation, the Santa Barbara home he had purchased for re- tirement. His last seven ant} a half years were spent alone in his San Francisco home, as a widower, which may account for his continuation of technical activity. In addition to being a Mason for fifty-five years' he is known to have had three other nontechnical interests, which he very rarely ctiscussed: football, the Theosophical Society in America, and the Com- monwealth Club of San Francisco. Soon after Mrs. Estcourt's death, he flew around the world, stopping at many places, including several stops in Inctia, which his brother believes were connected with Mr. Estcourt's theosophical beliefs. It can be said that Vivian Fitzgerald Estcourt appeared to
162 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES live his life as he wished, little affected by others, always in- vestigating something, with the accomplishment of his objec- tives as his reward. He has left an enduring written record of many technical contributions to the utility industry in which he spent a long and very active professional life.