Peter E. Wrist was born in Mirfield, England, on October 9, 1927. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in physics and mathematics at St. Catharine College, Cambridge University, in 1948, followed by a master’s degree in 1952. Also in 1952, he earned a master of science degree in crystallography from London University, Birkbeck College.
He began his career as a research physicist for the British Paper and Board Industry Research Association in Kenley, England. He left there in 1952 to join Quebec North Shore Paper Company as a research physicist. Between 1956 and 1983, Dr. Wrist worked for Mead Corporation, first in Chillicothe and later in Dayton. He began as a research physicist and progressively moved through the ranks until he assumed the position of vice president, technology in 1972, a position he held for 11 years.
In 1983, Dr. Wrist returned to Canada as executive vice president of the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (PAPRICAN). He retired in 1994 after serving as president and chief executive officer since 1986.
Beginning with his years in England and continuing throughout his career in Canada and the United States, Dr. Wrist did pioneering research into the heart of papermaking — the forming process. At age 27, he won his first recognition, the C. Howard Smith Gold Medal Award of the CPPA for his paper “The Papermaking Process as a Filtration Problem.” Shortly thereafter, he received the Weldon Medal.
Early in his work, he sought to determine why the table rolls of the Fourdrinier machines of the time were restricting machine speeds. From experimental observations and mathematical considerations, he invented drainage foils as replacements for table rolls. The stationary drainage elements provided a more controllable suction than table rolls and twice as many could be fitted in the same space. Foils were eventually used worldwide and led to substantial improvements in product quality and production rates. Dr. Wrist and Dr. George Burkhard also introduced new techniques for analyzing the basis weight profile of a sheet. In further efforts to achieve more efficient water removal, Dr. Wrist was the first to introduce a fabric into the nip of a wet press. Later, he and Lars Jordanson invented the fabric press, which is widely used in Europe and Japan and had a major influence on the design of today’s press felts.
During the 1970s, Dr. Wrist actively led the U.S. paper industry participation in the enactment and implementation of realistic water pollution control legislation, resulting in the “Federal Pollution Control Act Amendments” in 1972 and the “Best Conventional Technology” in the 1977 amendments to the act.
Later, while president of PAPRICAN, Dr. Wrist continued to provide outstanding leadership in environmental matters, particularly during the dioxin crisis. Under his management, several methods of reducing dioxin concentrations were developed, and within a remarkably short time, most mills in Canada were ahead of schedule in meeting the dioxin effluent regulations set by Environment Canada.
Dr. Wrist put considerable personal effort into his achievements; in addition, he augmented his efforts by developing a fruitful cooperation with others, particularly during the dioxin crisis. He also stimulated and guided research efforts through extensive committee work in conjunction with The Institute of Paper Chemistry, the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), and the Recovery Boiler Research Program of API.
Dr. Wrist served with distinction as chairman of TAPPI’s Fluid Mechanics Committee. He is a TAPPI Fellow, and has been a board member, vice president, and president of the association. He received the Engineering Division Award in 1969; and the Gunnar Nicholson Gold Medal in 1983. He has been a member of CPPA since 1952 and received the John S. Bates Memorial Gold Medal in 1996. Dr. Wrist is also a member of New York Academy of Sciences. He has served on The Institute of Paper Chemistry’s advisory committee; chairman of the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement; and since 1991, he has been chairman of the prize selection committee of the prestigious Marcus Wallenberg Foundation. In 1993, Dr. Wrist received an honorary doctor of science degree from the University of British Columbia.
Dr. Wrist published 60 technical papers and holds over 30 patents on paper machine design and operation. When necessary, he has been a spokesman for the industry. He testified before the U.S. Congress a number of times to achieve responsible and effective federal regulations on industrial discharges. He was principal architect of several agreements between PAPRICAN and the Canadian government, including the Networks of Centres of Excellence program on High-Value Papers from Mechanical Pulps, and served as chairman of the board of this centre and also of the Protein Engineering Centre of Excellence.
Dr. Wrist and his wife, Mirabelle, raised four children. The couple resides in Jupiter, Florida. On a two-acre lot of former pine scrub land, he has already established a citrus orchard and a large water lily lake, complete with a replica of Monet’s Japanese bridge. In addition to gardening, he continues to enjoy boating with his grandchildren, although his sailboat has been replaced by a power boat.