Leonard Shaw

PROFESSOR Leonard Shaw, who has died aged 98, was an inventor who had committed much of his life's work to the field of industrial hygrometry.

John Leonard Shaw was born in Marshfields, Bradford, on July 12, 1912, and attended Carlton Street School until 1929.

Arrival of the "Talkies" in early 1930s had ruined Len Shaw's ambition to become a professional pianist. The demise of the piano accompanist, brought about by the introduction of sound in the cinema, made the young man from West Bowling think hard about his future.

His sole aim had been to be a top jazz pianist. With widespread economic depression, there were many musicians out of work and young Len thought twice.

An accomplished pianist, music had been his main love throughout his childhood practising hours on end and also teaching from the age of 12. In the evenings, after school and at weekends, he used to play at the local Towers Hall cinema on Manchester Road.

At school, he found the courses dull and uninteresting. He had leanings towards physics and electronics but found the school syllabus too elementary. So, he entered what was then the newest industry as a wirer of radio sets.

Encouraged by his own studies and experiments, this led him into the science of radio and it was this field which put him on the road to success. Within six months he left his job and opened a small shop in Manchester Road from where he repaired radio sets.

After service in the RAF and work with radar, which enhanced his knowledge of electronics, Len Shaw opened a much larger shop in the heart of Bradford in busy Market Street.

Due to the regulations at that time, he could only repair radios. It was during this time that he became known as the "Radio Doctor" – using his self-taught knowledge to repair thousands of faulty wireless sets.

Business boomed. The restrictive legislation was lifted and Len Shaw expanded and began to sell radios. The introduction of television sets gave him another opportunity to use his skills, which he did very successfully, introducing the business concept of renting television sets.

He quit the radio and television business when the field started to be dominated by large companies. It was then he reached the turning point in his career.

Following his life-long motto "you must specialise to succeed", he decided to find an answer to one of the major problems faced by the then booming textile industry in Bradford. This was to accurately, and quickly, measure the moisture content of fibres.

After two years of research, and lots of self-confidence, he launched the first moisture meter in 1952. It was a raging success and soon every textile manufacturer in the country had one. The rapid growth called for more room so he acquired the much larger premises on Rawson Road, Bradford.

The kernel of the Shaw scientific success "the sensor" was a closely guarded secret. The "sensor", which forms the heart of the moisture meters, were then manufactured by Mr Shaw and his late wife Barbara Mamie Shaw, who died in November 2009.

Although very successful, he soon realised that he was running out of customers and had to go back to the drawing board and extend his research. He discovered that there were many areas where, with slight modification to his "secret" moisture-sensing device, he could open up further markets to sell into.

He made this modification and led the company to become a great success, selling the meters globally.

Today, the company which still bears his name, Shaw Moisture Meters, has headquarters in Bradford, on Bolton Road and manufactures a variety of meters, which are used all over the world by a wide range of industries, for measurement of moisture in industrial gases.

Having sold the commercial rights to the "sensor-technology", Leonard Shaw made his home in Guernsey, Channel Islands, where he moved in 1976. He set up a laboratory there and worked tirelessly, still retaining an interest in his company.

The success of the company, founded by Leonard Shaw, was honoured with a Queen's Award for Export Achievement in 1986, and his dedicated work in the field of hygrometry was also recognised by The Royal Institute in London, for which he was made an Honorary Professor of Hygrometer Technology in 2000.

Professor Leonard Shaw had many hobbies and interests including sports cars, horses, fishing, art, technology, astronomy, astrology, supernatural and gardening. He also had a deep passion for both flying and sailing, owning various aircraft and yachts throughout his life, which he piloted and sailed personally.