John Seaman Bates was born in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, on June 9, 1888. He received his college education at Acadia University in Nova Scotia and Columbia University in New York with a bachelor of science degree in 1909 and a doctorate in chemical engineering (the first in the school’s history) in 1914.While a student at Columbia, John Bates became involved with the paper industry by working two summers with Union Bag and Paper Company in Hudson Falls, New York, as a helper on the sulphite pulp digesters and as an assistant to the chief engineer. In the spring of 1914, he was asked by the Canadian government to become the first head of the newly created Forest Products Laboratories on the McGill University campus. After World War I, he became the first technical superintendent at the Kenogami mill of Price Brothers Co. Ltd. and two years later, the first chemical engineer of the Bathurst Co. Ltd. Mill in Bathurst, New Brunswick.
It was in the early 1920’s at the Bathurst Mill when he discovered and patented a unique method for clarification of green liquor. The interaction of SO2 with calcium carbonate released CO2, preventing scaling. The system stayed in place for 40 years.
In 1926, Dr. Bates began with Price Brothers as chief chemist, having responsibility for all their mills in the Saguenay River Valley in Quebec as well as their Donnacona newsprint mill. Starting in 1932, he joined the selling agent Price & Pierce Ltd. and spent seven years as technical advisor to the hundred paper and board mills in the British Isles. He later helped set up mills in Port Alberni and Nanaimo for Prentice Bloedel and H.R. MacMillan.
Following his long stint with Price & Pierce, Dr. Bates began his own consulting firm in 1951 from which he officially retired in 1967. During his consulting years he helped the British Columbia Forest Products Ltd. set up a bleached kraft mill in Crofton, helped the province of Saskatchewan construct a pulp mill, was involved with the establishment of four mills in the Maritimes, and assisted the three Maritime provincial governments in developing water supply management and pollution control.
As well as working directly for the paper industry over his entire career, Dr. Bates was also very active in industry organizations. He was a co-founder of the Pulp & Paper Research Institute of Canada; the founder, first chairman, and permanent honorary chairman of the Technical Section of the Canadian Pulp & Paper Association (CPPA); and held lifetime memberships in the Technical Association of the Pulp & Paper Industry (TAPPI) and the Engineering Institute of Canada. He was admitted to the Order of Canada in 1989. The Technical Section of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association (now the Pulp & Paper Technical Association of Canada, PAPTAC), established their premier award as the John S. Bates Gold Medal in recognition of his many contributions, becoming the Memorial Gold Medal upon his death. He also received an honorary degree from the University of Ottawa in 1957 and an honorary degree from the University of New Brunswick in 1971.
Dr. Bates served in governmental roles in addition to his industry involvement. He was chairman of the New Brunswick Forest Development Commission (1955-57) and a member of the board of the New Brunswick Electric Power Commission (1958-60). He was chairman of the New Brunswick Water Authority (1958-67), the Nova Scotia Water Authority (1963-66), and the Prince Edward Island Water Authority (1966).
His first wife was Jeanette Ingraham of North Sydney, Nova Scotia, (deceased 1924) and second wife was Ruby Windsor of Bathurst, New Brunswick, (deceased 1969). He had three children (John, Mary, and David), three grandchildren (Jeanette, Margaret Ann, and Susan), three great-grandchildren (Karli, Elliott, and Brad), and one sister, Mrs. Marjorie (Frank) L. West. John Bates died in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada in 1991 at the age of 103.