K. B. Quinan

Engineer, Deceased Person

1878 – 1948


Who was K. B. Quinan?

Kenneth Bingham Quinan CH, usually known as K.B. Quinan, was an American born chemical engineer who settled in South Africa and contributed significantly to the British war effort in World War I by designing and building efficient explosives factories.

Quinan was born in East Orange, New Jersey as the sixth son of Henry Julius Quinan who had served as aide de camp to Stonewall Jackson during the American Civil War. His father's family was of Protestant Irish origin, while his mother's family, the Wickhams, were of English ancestry.

Quinan had no formal qualifications in chemistry or engineering, but in 1890 he joined his uncle W.R. Quinan working in a California industrial explosives factory. Under his uncle's instruction he acquired considerable experience in the technology of explosives manufacture. W.R. Quinan was hired by Cecil Rhodes to build a factory in South Africa to supply explosives for the De Beers mines. K.B. Quinan joined him in 1901 as General Manager of the factory in Somerset West near Cape Town.

By 1909, this was the second biggest explosives factory in the world. Quinan proposed that the company also manufacture glycerine, an essential ingredient in the explosives process. This plant was completed as the First World War started, assuring the mining industry and the South African economy, which largely depended on the output of the mines, would continue to be viable during the war.


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Jul 3, 1878
Lived in
  • New Jersey
Jan 26, 1948

on July 23, 2013