Percy Grosberg

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THE use of robotics and microprocessors in the textile industry owes much to the pioneering work carried out at Leeds University by Emeritus Professor Percy Grosberg, former Professor of textile engineering and head of the Department of Textile Industries there. He has died aged 87.

Professor Grosberg was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, studying Physics and Mathematics and then Chemical Engineering at Witwatersrand University.

In 1951 he was awarded a PhD, having joined the South African Wool Textile Research Institute the previous year and becoming involved in a number of research projects to do with helping the industry deal with irregularities in yarns.

He was given leave to take the postgraduate Diploma in Textile Industries at Leeds University, which he obtained in 1952.

He returned to Leeds in 1955 as ICI Research Fellow, becoming a lecturer in textile engineering a few months later.

His own research projects so distinguished him that aged only 36, he was appointed Research Professor of textile engineering.

Uniquely fitted by his unusually wide range of qualifications, spanning pure science, engineering and technology, Professor Grosberg went on to spearhead the development of a school internationally recognised for the quality of its work in important aspects of textile engineering, from the design and control of textile machinery to the engineering uses of textile materials.

He was once described as combining great fertility of invention with a deep knowledge of mathematical methods.

His personal research paved the way for the automation of textile processes with the use of microprocessors and robotics.

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 over the world, leading to an extensive network of enduring friendships and international contacts.

The Textile Institute awarded him its Warner Memorial Medal for research in 1968, and, in 1972, the Institute Medal.

In 1988, in recognition of his outstanding and wide-ranging research, he was elected Honorary Fellow.

At the time of his retirement in 1990, Professor Grosberg was the longest-serving professor on the staff of the university.

Having moved with his wife to Israel, he became Marcus Sieff Professor of Textile Technology at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, and held this post until 2008.

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