Ralph McGregor,Professor Emeritus
North Carolina State University
Born on February 11 1932 Died June 16, 2008
Years of Service Textiles NCSU 1970-1998
Ralph McGregor, Professor Emeritus and Cone Mills Distinguished Professor of Textile Chemistry, was born in
Leeds, Yorkshire, England, the son of Robert and Eveline McGregor, on February 11, 1932. He was educated at
West Leeds High School and then in the Department of Colour Science at Leeds University where he earned
First Class Honours. He was awarded the Le Blanc Medal as the outstanding undergraduate student in the
Faculty of Technology in 1953. He completed a Ph.D. in the same Department in 1958. Instead of military
service he taught chemistry for two years at Roundhay High School.
In 1958 he became Courtaulds Research Fellow at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and
Technology (UMIST). The following year he became a Lecturer in Polymer and Fibre Science at UMIST, a
position he held until 1968. In 1962 he was awarded a Perkins Travel Fellowship for research in Gothenburg,
Sweden. He was granted sabbatical leave in 1965-66 to conduct research at the Zentrum für
Applicationstechnik, Ciba AG, Basel, Switzerland. There he worked principally with B. Milosevic.
Having moved to the United States in 1968 he joined the Allied Chemical Co. as a senior researcher in
Petersburg, VA. In 1970, he accepted a position to join the faculty as Associate Professor of Textile Chemistry at
North Carolina State University. His research at this time was into the kinetic and thermodynamic aspects of
diffusion and sorption of dye molecules in fiber-forming polymers. He was promoted to Professor in 1974. In
1976, he was presented the Research Medal of the Worshipful Company of Dyers (London).
In 1978, in honor of his work, he was named Cone Mills Distinguished Professor of Textile Chemistry. (1) His
research continued as he published numerous papers and was engaged as a consultant by a number of
companies including Allied, DuPont, Tennessee Eastman and American Enka. In 1979, in recognition of his
research work thus far, he was honored with a Doctorate of Science (D.Sc.) at the University of Leeds.
In 1981, Ralph McGregor received a National Science Foundation grant to conduct research for six months at the
Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT) with Professor Toshiro Iijima. They studied the interaction of dyes with textile
fibers. In connection with this visit he became a founding Fellow of the North Carolina Japan Center where,
among other things, he studied Japanese. In 1986 he received a three-month grant from TIT to continue work
with Professor Iijima. In 1986 he was presented with a certificate by the Japanese government recognizing his
research in Japan.
The most honored award in the AATCC is the Olney Medal established in 1944 to honor Dr. Louis Atwell Olney,
founder and first president of AATCC. Ralph was named the recipient in 1984, joining several previous winners
from NC State: Charles Goldthwaite, 1962; and Hank Rutherford, 1974. At the conference at which the award
was presented the topic of his lecture was: Coloration of Textiles: Methods, Models and Misperceptions. (4) After
the AATCC conference, the faculty honored him with a reception on campus where the Olney Cookie, a popular
decorated chocolate chip cookie of the day, was presented. The cookie is a copy of the real Olney Medal.
Textile research in the 1980s was given special emphasis by the College of Textiles (5, page 170 and following)
Ralph McGregor established a Consortium for Studies of Color Defects (5, page 178) which included three
companies and collaboration with Professor Donald H. Mershon of Psychology.
A National Textile Center – initially a consortium of four southeastern universities was funded with a grant from
the US Department of Commerce. (5, page 211) McGregor and others benefited from this and did significant
research in the study of real-time dye bath control. Papers and a US patent were only part of the outcome of this
work. The members of the research team formed a new company, HueMetrix that worked closely with
sponsoring companies. An industrial system was installed in at least one NC dye house.
In 1994 Ralph McGregor was awarded a grant for collaborative research by the Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology in Zurich, Switzerland (ETH) where he worked with Paul Rhys. He retired in 1998 and immediately
began another sojourn at ETH, this time for 15 months and once more working with Paul Rhys.
Professor McGregor was married to Maureen McGaul McGregor. There are three children: Alasdair, Ralph, and
Francine, and five grandchildren.
Ralph McGregor was interested in many things outside his academic work. From childhood on he had an
insatiable curiosity. He was fluent in German, a language that he loved. And in his fifties he enthusiastically
tackled Japanese, including writing in the language, a notoriously difficult challenge. He read voraciously in
English and German.
In his twenties and thirties he was an accomplished mountaineer, both an excellent rock climber and an Alpinist.
He also enjoyed skiing and when his children were young he took up sailing as a good family sport. He explored
the mountains of North Carolina keenly, in early years as a back packer and latterly from the base of his
Travel was another interest. He visited Japan a number of times and made close Japanese friends. From his
base in Switzerland, which almost became his third country after he had lived there for a total of three years, he
visited a great number of European and Middle Eastern countries. He was invited to speak at a conference in
Russia in 1998. He also lectured in Germany and Korea and paid an academic visit to Brazil.
One of the great pleasures of his academic career was in collaborating with like -minded scientists. He enjoyed
attending conferences and symposiums, at most of which he presented papers, and then interacting with what
was in effect a little international society of scientists pursuing the same goals.
He also enjoyed classical music, opera and the theater. Upon visiting a foreign city he always tried to get tickets
to the opera which is, of course, enjoyable in any language.
Continued in Ralph McGregor Papers
1. Maureen McGregor, private communication 2012-13
Other references at the end of Ralph McGregor Papers
Page Copyright Gary N. Mock 2013
Ralph McGregor 1978
McGregor and Olney Cookie 1984
In Retirement - 2003