Dr Don Whitley, medical technician

Don Whitley
Don Whitley
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Dr Don Whitley, who has died at 89, was founder and chairman of an eponymous scientific company in West Yorkshire – a business that had begun in a spare bedroom and basement of his home.

Born in London in 1929, his family moved to Leeds in 1940. His father was employed in the tea industry, which was dispersed throughout the country during the Second World War.

Don had wanted to train as a doctor, but was dissuaded from doing so by his parents. He joined the staff of the Hospital for Women in Leeds as a student medical laboratory technician, and worked for 10 years at Leeds Maternity Hospital and Killingbeck Hospital.

In 1956 he joined Oxoid Ltd as a technical representative, covering North East England and, later the Republic of Ireland. Sales and technical roles followed in several other companies, culminating in his appointment as technical director of the Bydand Group.

In 1973 he and a colleague there formed LIP (Equipment and Services) Ltd. Then, in 1976, with the proceeds of the sale of his minority shareholding, he and his wife, Pam, started Don Whitley Scientific in the spare bedroom and basement of their home in Shipley.

For more than 15 years, he drove product development projects that resulted in numerous innovations and in the steady growth and development of the business. For many years it had its headquarters in the centre of Shipley, relocating last year to nearby Bingley.

He possessed an ideal blend of scientific and engineering knowledge, natural curiosity and wide-ranging interests, and is named on 24 national and international patents – a contribution, ironically, he may not have been able to make as a medical doctor.

He became company chairman in 1992 when his son, Paul Walton, became managing director. But he retained a strong interest in product development, and attended conferences and scientific events across the world, embarking in his 80s on a three-month tour of distributors and customers in Dubai, India, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

His company now employs 89 staff and owns the majority shareholding in subsidiaries in Germany and Australia.

In 2009, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by Bradford University.

Married three times, he had seven children. His first wife and one son predeceased him. Two sons, two grandsons and a great-grandson work within the company he founded.