GLOWING tribute has been paid to a former Keighley man who founded a hugely-successful business.

Dr Don Whitley, who has died aged 89 after a short illness, still chaired the company.

He started Don Whitley Scientific, with his wife Pam, from the spare bedroom and basement of their home in 1976.

Over the past four decades the firm has continued to grow, and is now a leading international supplier of innovative equipment and services to the microbiology and so-called tissue culture industries.

It develops and manufactures products for both the public and private sectors – primarily for use in hospitals, laboratories, food-testing organisations, pharmaceutical companies and research institutions.

Dr Whitley, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Bradford in 2009 for his achievements in applied microbiology, was still taking a keen interest in the company's product development projects up until just a few weeks before his death.

"He drove projects that resulted in numerous innovations and in the steady growth of the business," says his son Paul Walton, who became managing director in 1992, when his father took-up the chairmanship.

"He possessed an ideal blend of scientific and engineering knowledge, natural curiosity and wide-ranging interests, and is named on 24 national and international patents.

"Although my father was no longer involved in the day-to-day management of the business, he was consulted frequently.

"He attended key conferences and scientific meetings and events and was held in high regard by many influential individuals in our industry.

"Within a few hours of his death, tributes began to arrive from all over the world.

"He was generous with his time, supported many scientists in the early years of their careers, was widely travelled and had many, many friends."

Dr Whitley was born in London in 1929 but the family moved to Yorkshire 11 years later.

His father was employed in the tea industry, which was dispersed throughout the country during the Second World War.

Dr Whitley had wanted to train as a medical doctor, but was dissuaded from doing so by his parents.

He initially joined the staff of the Hospital for Women in Leeds as a student medical laboratory technician.

For a decade, he worked at Leeds Maternity and Killingbeck hospitals.

In 1956, he joined Oxoid Ltd – now owned by Thermo Fisher Scientific – as a technical representative, covering north-east England and later the Republic of Ireland.

After holding sales and technical roles in several companies, he was appointed technical director of the Bydand Group.

He and a colleague formed LIP (Equipment and Services) Ltd in 1973, but three years later Dr Whitley sold his minority shareholding and with Pam set-up Don Whitley Scientific.

"Ironically had dad become a medical doctor he may not have contributed to improvements in public health and the understanding and treatment of cancer in anything like the same way as he did – all over the world – through the company he founded," said Paul.

Even well into his 80s, Dr Whitley didn't slow down.

During the winter of 2014-15, he and Pam embarked on a three-month overseas tour, visiting distributors and customers in Dubai, India, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Don Whitley Scientific Ltd – which has an 89-strong workforce – is now based in Bingley, but also owns the majority shareholding in subsidiaries in Germany and Australia.

Dr Whitley had seven children – and two of his sons, two grandsons and a great-grandson work within the company.

In accordance with his wishes, there will be no funeral.

He requested that his body be left to research at the University of Nottingham Medical School.

A celebration of his life will take place later this year.