<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Arthur Burnham Obituary

Fragrance was his oxygen


Art Burnham died very suddenly on Sunday 29th April in the early evening, following complications from his last hospital admission.


Charming, funny and - best of all a wealth of knowledge and experience

Arthur was a character. He rowed in the first boat at Andover, the boat that went to Henley. He went on to study English and French at Cornell while rowing with their heavyweights. In 1964 he came close to being selected for the 1964 Olympics team. He then went to Cambridge to collect more degrees in English and Law while continuing to row. He rowed in the winning boat for Cambridge in "The Boat Race" in 1965. He was rightfully very proud of his rowing career.


Arthur Burnham is unique, literally the last of his kind - a classically trained independent British perfumer.


After Andover, Cornell and Cambridge, Arthur defied British tradition and the odds by enrolling in the 10-year apprenticeship and technical training program in Grasse, France—a very unusual career move for an Englishman, even a bilingual Englishman Arthur enjoyed a unique apprenticeship—not only was he one of the last generation to have such in-depth training, he conversed and learned entirely in French! Very strict rules meant he spent six months gaining hands-on experience in each and every department from distillation and extraction of essential oils to mixing and manufacture, while also studying daily under a senior perfumer. As Arthur revealed when he delivered the 2002 Society of Cosmetic Scientists and British Society of Perfumers' Joint Lecture at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, lessons were rigorous and complex. Apprentices not only had to learn every single raw material and recognize them by smell alone, they had to commit to memory key accords and pairs, extraction techniques, evaporation tables and historic formulae, as well as drawing in detail every single piece of equipment used. One of Arthur's fellow students in Grasse was Jacques Polge, today Director of Creative Perfumery at Chanel.


It's not just his technical ability (and since he trained in Grasse he has plenty of that) that makes Arthur special, but also his knowledge of the world. He knows a lot about many things, and combines this with curiosity, honesty, good sense and humor to make his input far more than a simple perfumer's


His experience in Grasse resulted in a management role and responsibility for a major perfume company’s commercial operations in South Africa, Australasia and the UK. He subsequently created his own firm, developing fragrances for a large list of major companies.


In a world of corporate perfumery, Arthur remained an independent force. A free spirit, diffident and different, erudite and creative, he collaborated as well with perfumers as with designers. He was a rare resource.

Arthur was totally bilingual in French, spoke very fluent German and managed well in Spanish and Italian.

Arthur Burnham was one of the most innovative, creative, passionate and enthusiastic creators of new fragrances.


Competitive rowing and perfumery appeared an incongruous combination. Only an outstanding character could pull both off with panache.


Our life experience is a patchwork of the people we meet on our life's journey. From the short time I knew Arthur, I am sure he enriched many people's lives.

For more on Arthur and his company (and the sources of many of the above quotes and descriptions) visit www.arthurburnham.com/intro/flash.html

Below are emails for Arthur’s family.


Last Saved June 14, 2007
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