1995Advanced TechnologyMaterials Science and Engineering
George William Gray photo

George William Gray

  • U.K. / 1926-2013
  • Chemist
  • Professor Emeritus, The University of Hull

Fundamental Contribution to Research and Development of Liquid Crystal Materials by Establishing the Practical Molecular Design Methods

A chemist who has made fundamental contributions to research and development of liquid crystal materials, the key component of liquid crystal displays, which have become an indispensable part of today's information-based society. He founded and organized the science of liquid crystal materials, and established practical molecular design methods for the application of these materials.


Brief Biography

Born in Scotland, U.K.
B.Sc. University of Glasgow
Ph.D. University of London
Senior Lecturer, University of Hull
Professor of Organic Chemistry, University of Hull
Professor Emeritus, University of Hull
Research Consultant, Merck Ltd.

Selected Awards and Honors

Queen's Awards
Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)
Leverhulme Gold Medallist of the Royal Society
Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
1993, 1994
Gold Medal Lecture to the Society of Chemical Industry

Major Works


New Family of Nematic Liquid Crystals for Displays (with K. Harrison, J. Nash.) Electron Letts., 9., 1973.


A Liquid Crystal Mixture for Use in Smectic Liquid Crystal Display Devices (with A. Mosley). J. Chem. Soc., Chem. Commun., 147., 1976.


Liquid Crystal Compounds Incorporating the trans-1, 4-Substituted Cyclohexane Ring System (with D. McDonnell). Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst., 53., 1979.


The Synthesis and Transition Temperatures of Some 4,4″-dialkyl-and 4,4″-aldoxyalkyl-1,1′: 4′,1″-terphenyls with 2, 3 or 2′, 3′-difluoro substituents and of their biphenyl analogues (with M. Hird, D. Lacey and K. Toyne). J.Chem. Soc., Perkin Trans. II., 1989.


Synthesis and Properties of Some Novel Ferroelectric Materials-Hosts and Dopants (with M. Hird, D. Lacey and K. Toyne). Mol. Cryst. Liq. Cryst., 191., 1990.


Fundamental Contribution to Research and Development of Liquid Crystal Materials by Establishing the Practical Molecular Design Methods

Dr. George William Gray has contributed fundamentally to the research and development of liquid crystal materials which comprise the Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD) that are so essential to today’s information based society. He created and systematized the liquid crystal materials science, and established a method of practical molecular design.

Liquid crystal materials are well known for their use as energy efficient display elements in countless products across a wide range of fields, including digital calculators, personal computers and LCD televisions. As such, they have become indispensable to today’s modern society.

Discovered as early as 1888, liquid crystals cannot be categorized as gaseous, liquid or solid phase, but indeed must be considered as a fourth material state, possessing both the fluidity of liquid and the anisotropic properties of solids.

Dr. Gray’s research on liquid crystal materials began in 1951 when he was teaching at the University of Hull. In the early days, he was involved in basic research on the molecular structure of liquid crystals, with special focus on systematizing the synthesis and properties of liquid crystal compounds to clarify their molecular structures and physical properties.

Although the use of liquid crystals as a display device by controlling them with an electric field had been proposed earlier, their practical use did not become possible until 1972, when Dr. Gray succeeded in developing cyanobiphenyl liquid crystals which, because of their low transitional temperature and chemical stability, were operational at room temperature. This achievement made today’s LCD functionally possible.

Today, even twenty years later, this series of compounds continue to be the most widely used standard liquid crystal compounds. Dr. Gray also clarified the fundamental molecular structure of nematic liquid crystal materials, which are at present the most widely used materials for general display purposes, and it can be said that this achievement still remains unsurpassed. Indeed, it is the wealth of knowledge that has resulted from Dr. Gray’s basic research in the field of liquid crystal materials that has fulfilled various needs for practical applications, and it can be said that the success of the liquid crystal science to this day has been brought about largely by his efforts.

Dr. Gray’s research in the area of synthesis and properties of liquid crystals has led him to succeed in creating liquid crystal compounds which are suitable for use in liquid crystal devices. His remarkable achievements in the area of molecular design research have been essential to the development of stable, durable liquid crystal compounds, and he has received acclaim from around the world for his contributions in creating functional, long-lasting liquid crystal materials. Without Dr. Gray’s distinguished service in this field, the liquid crystal device industry would never have developed to the levels it has attained today.

Dr. Gray has published countless papers concerning liquid crystal along with his many books and other works which have all become standard reference materials in the field. These have had an enormous influence on young researchers in this vital and growing field, and together with numerous other achievements, have distinguished Dr. George William Gray as indeed meriting the 1995 Kyoto Prize for Advanced Technology in the field of Materials Science and Engineering.


Abstract of the Lecture


The initial feelings of pleasure and pride experienced on learning of the Award of the 1995 Kyoto Prize Laureate in Advanced Technology are described, coupled quite naturally with some personal doubts about the recipient’s worthiness of the high honour, stemming from his recognition of his own human fallibility.

There follows an analysis of why he and not some other member of the audience is this year’s Laureate, and the conclusion reached is that while much depended upon his particular knowledge, education and training, strongly influenced in the early stages by his father, a very important part was played by chance factors related to particular personalities, encounters and events, and in relation to his research in display technology to the fortunate coincidence in timing in relation to two important inventions, his own and one other.

Although not a technical lecture, a description of a scientist’s career and attainments cannot be given without the injection of some science, and the importance of scientists making real efforts to communicate their science to non-scientists is discussed. The great importance of communication and education in breaking down barriers between scientists and non-scientists, between rich and poor, cannot be overstressed. Using simple terms and analogies therefore, a brief description of liquid crystals is given and the reasons for their importance are described in terms of their elegant duality of property D order coupled with fluidity. In particular, unique optical properties of Nematic liquid crystals are demonstrated.

The timely, almost coincident discovery of (1) the Twisted Nematic Device and (2) the first, stable, room temperature liquid crystals is described, emphasising that the materials’ discovery was based on sound knowledge established during earlier fundamental research D basic research of the kind we must be careful to foster. Full exploitation of the materials of course relied on collaborative interactions with other groups. The overall effect was the provision of a secure basis for the now highly wealth D creating Liquid Crystal Electro-optical Display Industry.

Because of its effect upon the whole field of information technology and society, this aspect of the recipient’s work will always be the best known, but there were other important outcomes stemming from over 40 years of his research, resulting overall in international recognition and the affectionate title of “Father of Liquid Crystals”.

After giving some criteria required for success by the young people of today, the address ends with further acknowledgement of Mr. Inamori’s vision and philosophy in creating the Kyoto Laureates and providing for the speaker the most outstanding and memorable occasion of his career.

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New Development and Applications of Liquid Crystals

Sunday, November 12, 1995
Kyoto International Conference Hall
Takeo Shimizu Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Advanced Technology; Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Kyoto University Chisato Kajiyama Member, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Advanced Technology; Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Kyushu University


Opening Remarks Takeo Shimizu
Greetings Toyomi Inamori
Managing Director, The Inamori Foundation
Greetings Hiroo Imura
Chairman, the Kyoto Prize Committee in Advanced Technology;
President, Kyoto University
Introduction of Laureate Hiroaki Yanagida
Chairman, the Kyoto Prize Screening Committee in Advanced Technology;
Professor, Faculty of Engineering, the University of Tokyo
Commemorative Lecture Dr. George William Gray
Laureate in Advanced Technology
"Four Decades of Liquid Crystal Research "A Look at the Past and Tomorrow's Possibilities"
Chairperson Shohei Naemura
Manager, Liquid Crystal Technical Center, Merck Japan Limited
Lecture Hideo Takezoe
Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology
"Ferroelectricity and Development of Ferroelectric Liquid Crystal Materials"
Lecture Hiroyuki Nohira
Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Saitama University
"Chiraltechnology and Development of Ferroelectric Liquid Crystal Materials"
Chairperson Haruyoshi Takatsu
Group Manager, DIC and General Technical Manager, Rodic Co.,Ltd.
Lecture Hirosi Yokoyama
Chief, Molecular Phics Section, Electromechanical Laboratory
"Current Topics in Surface Physics of Liquid Crystals"
Lecture Naoyuki Koide
Professor, Science the University of Tokyo
Research and New Development of Liquid Crystalline Polymers for functional Polymeric Materials
Chairperson Fumiaki Funada
Division Deputy General Manager, Liquid Crystal Laboratories, Sharp Corporation
Lecture Tatsuo Uchida
Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Tohoku University
"Recent Progress and Future Trends of Liquid Crystal Devices"
Closing Chisato Kajiyama