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James Hunter Gray

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James Hunter Gray (1867-1925)


1925 Obituary [1]

JAMES HUNTER GRAY, K.C., M.A., B.Sc, died unexpectedly after a relatively short illness on the 1st June, 1925. By his death the electrical industry especially, and industry in general, have lost one who was most enthusiastic in promoting development and progress, and in the exercise of his profession as a patent barrister his sympathies and efforts were ever in this direction.

Born at Midcalder, Midlothian, on the 3rd September, 1867, he went at an early age to George Watson's College, Edinburgh; and on completing a successful school career he chose the scientific profession. He elected to study under the late Prof. Blyth, LL.D., of Anderson's College, Glasgow, a physicist and electrician of a high order and a model teacher.

Mr. Hunter Gray, while specializing in mathematics and physics, educated himself in other directions in order that he might qualify himself for the degree of Bachelor of Science in London University. Part of this education was obtained as a summer-session student at Edinburgh University, and the remainder by home study and at Anderson's College.

After graduating at London University Prof. Blyth introduced him to Lord Kelvin, then Sir William Thomson, who admitted him to the physical laboratory in Glasgow University as a research student. While devoting the main part of his time to research and the study of higher mathematics and physics, Mr. Hunter Gray attended the usual Arts classes and graduated Master of Arts in the University, at the same time carrying on his research work in the laboratory. The results of some of this work were published in the proceedings of scientific societies and it may be useful to mention three of these, as they are of interest to engineers. The first-mentioned is of special interest to electrical engineers concerned with wireless.

In 1891, the 1851 Exhibition Scholarships were instituted and Mr. Hunter Gray was nominated by Lord Kelvin as the University of Glasgow Scholar. The above-mentioned researches were carried out during the tenure of his Exhibition Scholarship. Towards the end of this period the well-known cordite patent action of Nobel v. Anderson was started and Dr. Bottomley (Lord Kelvin's nephew), who was retained by Nobels as a scientific witness, asked Mr. Hunter Gray to assist him with the experimental work on the case. He was thus brought into contact with Fletcher Moulton and other men then prominent at the English Bar. This case decided him to adopt the career in which he became so eminent. Not content with eating his dinners and studying law for his Bar examinations, he gained considerable knowledge of the practice of the law as a pupil in the office of a prominent firm of London solicitors before he was called to the Bar in 1895.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution in 189$ and became a Member in 1919. He served on the Council from 1915 to 1918, and his services were at all times freely available to the Institution. In this connection he served on several of its Committees, including that under Mr. Mordey on the 1919 Patents Act, where the assistance that he gave was most valuable. His work whether on committee or otherwise was most enthusiastically and unostentatiously done. There are few patent actions reported during the last 25 years in which he was not prominent. It may be said that there was not a single action relating to electrical patents in which he did not appear as counsel and mostly in favour of the patentee. In addition, he acted for the Crown on many occasions on electrical accident inquiries, in cases under the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors, sometimes for, and sometimes against, the Crown.

He was intensely interested in his profession and in the technical subjects with which he had to deal. He took infinite pains to understand his case, and he was incapable of taking in argument what he considered to be a bad point. In his conduct of a case, whether as examiner or cross-examiner, he always followed a definite line which he had planned beforehand so as to develop his case as shortly as possible, and in summing up he was brief and concise, in many cases too brief to satisfy the eager client, but more often than otherwise he achieved the result that he and the client desired.

Mr. Hunter Gray, or "Jimmy" as his many friends and intimates called him, was not only eminent and popular in his profession but his lovable disposition and character endeared him to all with whom he came in contact. One cannot better the estimate of the impression which he made on his fellows than that which is contained in the following extract from the beautiful tribute to his memory by Lord Hewart, the Lord Chief Justice, in The Times of the 6th June:- "But if 'Jimmy' had a genius for law and a genius for advocacy, he had also something far more important than either or both - a genius for friendship. No man was ever more beloved by those who knew him. He had not one enemy. While there was nobody who spoke, or had occasion to speak, one word against him, his praises were on all. men's lips, as they are to-day when we miss him and deplore his loss—the staunchness and tenderness of his friendship; the complete lovableness and simplicity of his character; the playfulness and humour which, while they revealed the heart of a child, drew all children to him; the unselfishness and generosity which were not so much characteristics of his life as the very essence of his life itself."


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