Leslie Bradford was born in Delhi, India, and attended school there until his family migrated to Adelaide, Australia, in 1892. He attended the South Australian School of Mines and Industries where he graduated in mining and metallurgy in 1896. He joined BHP at Broken Hill in 1897 where he participated in the development of the flotation process, his main contribution being the use of mineral activation and depression techniques to make selective flotation possible. BHP was building its Newcastle steelworks at the time, and in 1915 he was transferred to Newcastle. Later in life he commented that his improvement of the open hearth process was his main technical achievement.
In 1920 Leslie left BHP to set up the Bradford Kendall foundry in Sydney – to take advantage of industry growth in NSW. In this venture he collaborated with Jim Kendall, another former BHP employee. In 1924 he returned to BHP as Production Superintendent of the steelworks and he was then appointed General Manager while still a member of the management group of the Bradford Kendall foundry. In 1935 he was appointed General Manager of BHP under Essington Lewis. In 1940 he established Bradford Insulation to make rockwool from molten slag in steel making operations.
A review of his career shows that Leslie Bradford was not only an outstanding entrepreneur and manager, he was also a high-quality scientist, otherwise his flotation work would not have been successful. He was prepared to take a risk if it was required of him, for example he funded Bradford Kendall by betting on the racehorse ‘Jack Findlay’ and when it won, he reinvested his winnings on the same horse. It won four consecutive times.
Leslie Bradford was elected AusIMM President in 1926 and was awarded the Institute Medal in 1937 for his work on flotation and steel making.
Photo courtesy Bradken.