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  • Discovery or Invention? 60 years of Reactive Dyes to the Present Day

Discovery or Invention? 60 years of Reactive Dyes to the Present Day

Date: February 10, 2016 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Location: Novotel Leeds Centre, 4 Whitehall Quay, LS1 4HR


  • In celebration of the life of Professor Ian Rattee

    The George Douglas Memorial Lecture


    Please note that this event will now take place at the Novotel in Leeds city centre, close to the train station and with parking and easy access to the motorways. This change of venue is due to the University of Leeds cancelling the rooms we had booked.

    This event is free to attend – come and join us!

    Registration and lunch from 1.00pm (with thanks to the Worshipful Company of Dyers for kindly sponsoring the lunch and catering).

    The event closes at 5.00pm.

    To book your place, please click here.

    The past can influence the future and this event will highlight the importance of Professor Ian Rattee on the 60th anniversary of his most famous invention of reactive dyes as well as his other research work at ICI and as Head of the Colour Chemistry Department at the University of Leeds. Professor David Lewis, Professor Rattee’s first PhD student at the University will present a synopsis of this work.

    The other lectures will highlight current dye research within the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds and the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University. Practical examples of colorant chemistry that enhance and change our lives.

    Dr Paul Thornton and Dr Natalia Sergeeva will present lectures highlighting their areas of research and will provide the participant with an idea of how far-ranging and changing the needs of various industries are in relation to the colorants used.

    Professor Mark Wainwright will focus specifically on his research into dyes within the medical field which is an area of great interest for cancer treatments and as we find that resistance to traditional antimicrobial agents increases what benefits could dye therapies provide and how are they influenced by the past.

    The event finishes with a panel discussion and the chance to discuss the topics covered and look to the future for dyes in textiles, printing, medical end uses and other areas. How will our needs and requirements alter as environmental, medical, logistical, financial changes occur at an ever growing pace? What can we learn from the pioneers of the past to influence our future?

    Please click on the ‘speakers’ tab for further details of the presentations.

    The event will be chaired by SDC President Derek McKelvey.

    If you have any questions please email:


    Background to the George Douglas Memorial Lecture

    George Douglas: SDC President 1912 – 1914, Vice President 1894 – 1912.

    George Douglas had been largely responsible for the formation of BDA Ltd (Bradford Dyers Limited) in 1898. This lecture series under the name ‘The George Douglas Memorial Lecture’ was started in 1948 when the BDA Ltd established a fund with a capital sum of £2,000 to finance a biennial George Douglas Memorial Lecture. The lecture was to be on a subject relating to the dyeing and finishing of textiles. The trust deed was very specific in where it should be invested and how the expected £60 per year annual income should be allocated to deliver this lecture.

    Holding this event in celebration of the life of Professor Ian Rattee and his discovery of reactive dyes 60 years ago and his work within the Leeds Colour Chemistry Department is fitting as a previous lecture series by the SDC, in 1944, was set up to celebrate the centenary of Mercer’s discovery of the reaction of caustic soda on cotton and the start of cotton mercerisation.

    Both events had a significant impact on the processing and subsequent use of cotton.



  • Our speakers include:

    David Lewis, Emeritus Research Professor, University of Leeds

    Ian Rattee – inspirational researcher, supervisor and gentleman. A summary of our joint involvement with the reactive dye system.

    In 1962 David Lewis became Ian’s first PhD student at Leeds University; his research programme was specifically to develop a detailed understanding of the nature of the reactions of chloro-acetyl dyes with wool. He was particularly impressed by Ian’s commitment and passion for the reactive dye system. This inspired and influenced his research activities over the next 50 years.

    David believes the original work of Rattee and Steven leading to the synthesis and application of chloro-s-triazine dyes (Procion dyes) was an essential invention otherwise cotton dyeing and printing to obtain reasonable washing fastness would have been seen as mainly capable of producing rather dull hues – the brighter shades produced by direct dyes always being deficient in their wash-fastness properties. The latter statement indicates that cotton textiles would today be a minority market. The development and marketing of Procion dyes by ICI Dyestuffs Division in 1956 was an amazing tribute to the persuasive powers and commercial acumen of Ian Rattee – these were evident in his inaugural lecture ‘Discovery or Invention’.

    The lecture will cover this historical background and critically assess the innovation still required to develop high fixation reactive systems in order to improve the environmental profile of reactive dyeing.

    Professor Mark Wainwright, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University

    Off-Colour, or in the Pink? The use of Dyes in Medicine

    The nascent dye industry of the 19th Century was closely linked to contemporary scientific and medical discovery, principally via the use of microscopy and the establishment of cell staining as a method of assaying disease states. Ehrlich’s link from this to cell inactivation provided the quantum leap required for the demonstration of cell selectivity and differential toxicity, which in turn allowed the invention of chemotherapy. Ehrlich’s use of dyes in this work led to the chemotherapy of infectious disease such as malaria and the use of acridine and triphenylmethane derivatives as wound antiseptics during WWI. Subsequently, dyes became lead compounds for drug development both in tropical (protozoal) disease and CNS disorders, although interest in their use in bacterial disease decreased considerably following Domagk’s discovery of the sulphonamides, due to the introduction of the penicillins in the mid-1940s.

    While dyes have been used in medicine since the mid-19th Century as stains, tracers and indicators of metabolic activity, their direct therapeutic use remained low after WWII until the renaissance of the photodynamic effect in the mid-1980s. Since that time considerable advances in anticancer therapy have been made, and it only requires a similar realisation in the infection control field – particularly where there is involvement of conventional drug resistance – for dyes to be able to play a significant role in medicine once more.

    Dr Paul Thornton, Department of Colour Science, School of Chemistry, University of Leeds

    Dye-oil conjugation by highly-effective thiol-ene coupling

    We disclose the conjugation of linseed oil, a renewable material obtained from the ripened seeds of the flax plant, with C. I. Disperse Red 1 to yield a coloured macromolecule in two experimentally-simplistic coupling steps. Firstly, the abundant presence of carbon-carbon double bonds in linseed oil was exploited to introduce carboxylic acid functionality to linseed oil via a thiol-ene reaction between linseed oil and 3-mercaptopropionic acid. C. I. Disperse Red 1 was then grafted to the carboxylic acid units now present via esterification, offering a coloured product in high yields. On average, 39.1% of the carbon-carbon double bonds in each linseed oil molecule were furnished with a C. I. Disperse Red 1 molecule. The remaining carbon-carbon double bonds may therefore be further exploited for chemical crosslinking, ensuring that the product formed is of potential significance as a coloured, bio-based, surface coating product.

    Dr Natalia Sergeeva, School of Chemistry, University of Leeds

    Dyes and Light – Looking for a Signal

    Unconventional uses of coloured materials have been known for a very long time. Colour provided by a colorant can have less obvious applications. In fact, for some applications, colour of the dye or pigment is irrelevant. Our understanding of the physics and chemistry of the colour and its utilisation in art, medicine and technology will be a topic of the talk. We shall see how colour producing phenomena drive forward colour based technological applications and their impact on our day-to-day life.

Society of Dyers and Colourists

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