Tributes paid to Denny professor who paved the way for flatscreen technology

Professor Gray was born in Denny in 1926 and would go on to win the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology
Professor Gray was born in Denny in 1926 and would go on to win the Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology

Tributes have been paid to a pioneering scientist from Denny whose work paved the way for flatscreen TVs, computers and mobile phones.

Professor George Gray, who died on May 12 aged 86, was the world’s leading authority on the chemistry of liquid crystals.

He invented stable liquid crystal materials and in doing so unlocked the development of liquid crystal displays (LCDs) as everyday consumer items.

Mr Gray was born in Denny on September 4, 1926, to John, a scientist and botanist, and his wife Jessie.

He studied chemistry at the University of Glasgow, and obtained his PhD from the University of London while working at the University of Hull.

Mr Gray would be associated with the Humberside university for most of his career, and was made emeritus professor in 1990.

The new scientific field of liquid crystals was his speciality. He published the first book in English on the subject in 1962, and towards the end of that decade was encouraged by the British Government to develop alternatives to colour cathode ray tubes, commonly used in television sets.

These were considered expensive to produce and having poor picture quality.

Working together with the UK’s Royal Radar Establishment, Gray discovered the cyanobiphenyl liquid crystals, which have the right stability and alignment at room temperature to induce the optical properties that make them suitable for LCDs.

Mr Gray was recipient of the 1995 Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology and was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1991.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1983.

Dr Robert Parker, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “George Gray’s work was instrumental in the development of LCDs, stimulating a multi-billion dollar industry and making possible the wide variety of flatscreen devices we use today, from televisions to mobile phones to tablet computers.

“It is particularly poignant that this year saw the 40th anniversary of the publication of his seminal paper on these liquid crystals, on 
March 22 1973.”