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percy grosberg

Emeritus Professor Percy Grosberg, MSc (Eng), PhD, CEng, MIMechE, CText, FTI

Emeritus Professor Percy Grosberg, former Professor of Textile Engineering and Head of the Department of Textile Industries, died on 9 December 2012.

Professor Grosberg was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1925.  He took BSc degrees at the University of the Witwatersrand in Physics and Mathematics (1946) and in Chemical Engineering (1947).  In the following year, he obtained an MSc in Mechanical Engineering and in 1951 was awarded a PhD for a thesis on the ‘Thin Film Lubrication of Journal Bearings’.  He joined the South African Wool Textile Research Institute (SAWTRI) in 1950, where, as Senior Research Officer, he was engaged in a number of research projects involving the measurement of yarn irregularity and the investigation of the causes of such irregularity in drawing and spinning.  During this period, he was also given leave to read for the Postgraduate Diploma in Textile Industries at Leeds, which he was awarded in 1952.  The research he carried out for his diploma displayed conspicuous originality and the results were published in the Journal of the Textile Institute

In 1955, Professor Grosberg returned to Leeds as ICI Research Fellow and a few months later was appointed to a lectureship in Textile Engineering.  His research on the mechanisms of worsted spinning and knitting machines, and into the physical properties of knitted cloths, marked him out as a considerable talent and, in 1961, at the early age of thirty-six, he was appointed Research Professor of Textile Engineering.  He went on to spearhead the development of a school internationally recognised for the quality of its work in all aspects of textile engineering, ranging from the design and control of textile machinery to the engineering uses of textile materials.  His unusually wide range of qualifications, spanning pure science, engineering and technology, ideally fitted him to take the lead in this; he was once described as combining great fertility of invention with a deep knowledge of mathematical methods.  His personal research embraced the design and technology of textile machinery; the formation, structure and mechanical behaviour of textile yarn and fabric; and the application of microprocessors and robotics to the automation of textile processes.  He was the author of several books, including an Introduction to Textile Mechanisms (1968) and, jointly with J W S Hearle and S Backer, Structural Mechanics of Fibers, Yarns and Fabrics, Vol. 1 (1969).  He also had many papers published in textile and other scientific journals.  The prospect of working with Professor Grosberg attracted postgraduate students to Leeds from all corners of the globe, leading to an extensive network of enduring friendships and international contacts.

Recognition of Professor Grosberg’s major contributions to textile engineering and education took many forms.  The Textile Institute, the leading international association for those involved in textiles, honoured him on several occasions.  Appointed a Fellow of the Institute in 1966, he was also awarded its Warner Memorial Medal for research in 1968, and, in 1972, the Institute Medal for his general contribution to its affairs.  In 1988, he was elected Honorary Fellow of the Institute, in recognition of his outstanding and wide-ranging research.  Other honours bestowed upon him included the Distinguished Service Award of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.  This was one of a number of international centres of higher education and research with which he developed and retained close links.

Within the University, Professor Grosberg led the Department of Textile Industries very effectively for lengthy spells, being Acting Head from 1973 to 1975 and Head from 1975 to 1983 and again from 1987 until 1989.  A feature of his service on a wide range of University committees was his particular interest in those concerned with staffing matters and international students; he chaired both the Sub-Committee on Technical Staff and the Joint Committee on Overseas Students.

At the time of his retirement from his chair in 1990, Professor Grosberg was the longest-serving professor on the staff of the University.  Having moved with his wife to Israel, he took up a new appointment in that country as Marcus Sieff Professor of Textile Technology at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design (then known as the Shenkar College of Textile Technology and Fashion), and held this post until 2008.  He was made an Honorary Fellow of the College in 1993.  In 1999, he and Cherian Iype, a lecturer in the School of Textiles at Leeds, published Yarn Production: theoretical aspects, in response to requests from present and past students for the codification in book form of the lecture courses which had been delivered on this subject in the Department of Textile Industries for some two decades from the mid-1960s onwards.

Professor Grosberg is survived by his wife, Queenie, daughter, Gillian, and son, David.  Another son pre-deceased him.

Professor Grosberg’s funeral took place on 10 December 2012.