Ray was born and brought up in Newcastle, where he attended the County Grammar School. His father, Thomas, was a senior official in the National Union of Mineworkers; he met Ray's mother, Louise, who had been evacuated from Belgium when the war started, whilst he was serving in the Navy on minesweepers based out of Penzance.
Ray studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge (1973-76) before working for two years in the pharmaceutical industry as a chemist with Pfizer at Sandwich. He returned to Fitzwilliam College Cambridge in 1978 to do a Ph.D. with Ted McDonald in the Organic Chemistry group at Lensfield Road led by Sir Alan Battersby. His studies on the synthesis of tetrahydroisoquinoline alkaloids sparked a lifelong interest in the synthesis and properties of natural products. Following two years' postdoctoral studies with Prof. W.S. Johnson in Stanford University, USA, Ray joined ICI Plant Protection Division as a Team Leader in Plant Growth Regulator (PGR) Chemistry in 1983.
Ray was highly successful in designing and making novel heterocyclic PGRs, including some highly active non-triazole cytochrome P450 inhibitors. He was the principal inventor on a number of significant patent applications. His success led to promotions to Group Leader and PGR Project Team Leader and subsequently Herbicide Section Manager. The breadth of his scientific knowledge allowed him to take on leadership roles for several large sections in Zeneca and Syngenta, covering a wide variety of technical disciplines.
He was Head of Dietary Safety for several years, an experience that strengthened his knowledge of regulatory requirements for the registration of crop protection chemicals. His teams contributed to the registration of many important compounds, particularly the blockbuster products Amistar and Mesotrione. Ray's expert knowledge of GLP regulations also came from this period of his career.
As International Head of Analytical Sciences in Syngenta, Ray led large groups of scientists in Switzerland and the UK, developing efficient strategies for supporting research and development activities.
In 2008 he was appointed to a new role as Senior Scientific Advisor. Internally he carried out a number of strategic project reviews; he was the leader of the cross-Syngenta Measurement and Modelling network and the head of the Syngenta Sensors steering team. He was involved in many Innovation projects, such as the search for new antibacterial and antimalarial compounds. This role evolved into his latest appointment as Head of Open Innovation and Opportunity Management in the External Collaborations Group in 2012.
Externally, he was probably the most widely known scientist within Syngenta UK. Ray served on many industry, learned society, KTN and research council committees. He gave freely of his time as a school and college governor and acted as external reviewer for the BBSRC, Rothamsted Research, FERA, TSB and others. Ray regularly represented Syngenta at international meetings and events. He was on the steering committee for the IBTI "Club" on Industrial Biotechnology which led to his interest and deep knowledge of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Ray's influence was felt inside the company and externally throughout his career. He developed and promoted the Syngenta positions on many areas of technology and policy, for example giving oral evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee enquiry into Bioengineering in 2010.
Ray was also highly regarded by the many that he worked with at the RSC, where he had a number of senior roles. For example, he was Chair of the RSC Science, Education and Industry Board and a member of the RSC Council. He was a strong supporter of the Pan Africa Chemistry Network. He was an absolute mine of information about the crop protection industry and agriculture in general, and was continually approached by colleagues for information and advice.
Ray was very much admired as a man and a colleague. He had authority, but was also highly approachable. He was exceptionally friendly, and always had time to pass on interesting and amusing anecdotes. As a manager, Ray was well known for strongly supporting those who worked with him, sharing in their excitement at a new scientific result; he was strongly team-oriented and a skillful manager, good at bringing the best out of people. Ray was full of natural warmth and humour that brightened the lives of those who knew him; he was caring and compassionate in difficult times.
Ray was above all a family man. He is survived by his wife Clare and their five children, Anna, Catherine, Michael, Lucy and Laura. He was very proud of all their achievements. His family, and all of us who were privileged to know Ray, will miss him enormously and remember him fondly.
This Tribute was written by Dr Mike Bushell, a friend and colleague since university days.