Raymond E. Fornes

Professor Emeritus
Physics and Textiles, North Carolina State University

Raymond E. Fornes   —  Born January 16, 1943 Retired 2011
Years of Service at NC State 1970-2011
In Textiles 1970-1984


Raymond E. Fornes was born in Pitt County, North Carolina to Henry Loyd Fornes, Sr. and Lillian Tucker Fornes in January 1943.  He attended the public schools in Pitt County and entered East Carolina University, Greenville, NC after high school.  He graduated in 1965 with B. A. Mathematics and with Physics minor.  He received The Outstanding Male Senior Award in 1965. He enrolled at North Carolina State University and earned a Ph.D. in Physics with Mathematics minor in 1970.  The four and a half years were intense as he had to catch up on courses physics majors had as they entered graduate school.  He developed ulcers and headed to the handball courts to work off the stress.

Meanwhile, in 1967 the School of Textiles received permission to begin a Ph.D. program in Fiber and Polymer Science. (2)  As experienced Ph.D.-holding faculty members were added, there was a desire to find new Ph.D.s.   Late in 1969, T. Waller George suggested they needed a young physicist and Dean David Chaney contacted the department head in Physics for recommendations.  “Yes, we have a young fellow finishing up soon; invite Ray Fornes over for an interview.”  Ray went for the interview and knew nothing about polymers.  It must have been a good visit – he had an offer in two weeks.  No start up funds, no laboratory.  When you come over for spring semester course, we want you to sit in on a senior-level fiber science course taught by Sol Hersh and also attend introductory fiber science that you will teach in the fall.

What was Ray going to do for research?  There were field trips arranged to visit Cannon Mills in Kannapolis and Celanese Research in Charlotte.  These visits led to a car trip where ten of the faculty drove up to Wilmington, Delaware to talk with DuPont.  It was during this trip that Fornes struck up a friendship with Richard Gilbert that led to their first collaboration.  This was centered on serious health problems found in cotton mill workers who were diagnosed with Byssinosis or Brown Lung Disease.  Shouldn’t someone be looking into the cause and coming up with recommendations?  Some of the faculty argued against pursuing such a tack.  That would make the industry look bad!  That sounds like a perfect research project thought Fornes.  After performing a literature survey, reading medical journals and visiting the medical school at Duke and UNC, a proposal prepared by Fornes and Gilbert and submitted to USDA, the main people doing any research work with cotton.  Reasonable reviews came back but no funding.  About a year later, Cotton, Inc. came to the School.  The Brown Lung thing needed work!

Fornes Family before the Twins were born
School of Textiles News

The faculty wrote proposals in two areas.  One: set up a model cotton processing system around the carding area designed largely to remove dust from the environment during opening and spinning operations.  This team was headed by Sol Hersh and involved Paul Tucker and Ray Fornes.  The other project, headed by Fornes and Gilbert, was to look for causal effects in the cotton dust generated during processing and theoretically could enter the lungs and cause problems. They hired post-docs, enlisted graduate students and worked with the medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill.  On the technology side, they collected dust and separated the findings into components.  For the next four-five years, the investigations led to vast improvements in air quality in card rooms and, with that, improvements in lung health.  Sol Hersh was awarded the O. Max Gardner Award by the State of North Carolina, in large part in recognition of the work he did on this project. (2)

Fornes pursued in parallel a new line of work in fiber and polymer science that drew on his dissertation work in wide line nuclear magnetic resonance and continued his collaboration with former Ph. D. advisor, Jasper D. Memory.  He obtained a small grant funded ($650) by the NCSU Research office to fund a physics graduate student to study how water aligns with fibrils and polymer crystallites.  The US Army and NASA became interested. They wanted to incorporate fiber-reinforced materials in new structures and wanted basis studies conducted that examined the effects water and radiation would have on such structures.  Conveniently, Hank Rutherford of Textile Chemistry, Vivian Stannett of Chemical Engineering and Bill Walsh (a faculty member in Textile Chemistry and former student of Stannett) had developed a research program using a Cobalt-60 source to study cross-linking polymers.  They brought resources to build a ½ MeV electron accelerator in the School and used radiation to create durable-press cotton products.  The work was drawn upon by Fornes and Memory, soon to be joined by Gilbert that led to more than a fifteen year program involving the study of composites and later polymeric coating materials.

Even with this quality work going on in the School of Textiles during the 1970s, we were way behind other Colleges on campus regarding an Honors Program.  We were considered a highly technological school.  We needed to upgrade.  Fornes proposed the idea of creating a program to Dean Chaney and he was encouraged to draft a plan.  He and Gilbert wrote up a plan to invite the leading undergraduate scholarship students to participate in seminars to discuss research.  It was strongly endorsed by the faculty and became a smashing success.  The excellent students brought in with Textile Foundation scholarship money led to many staying on to pursue MS and Ph.D.s.  A Summer Research Program for outstanding high school students was set up led by Professor Gilbert and this really got a group of excellent students involved in hands-on research and attracted to the college.

Fornes entered the College of Textiles as Assistant Professor in 1970 and rose through the ranks to Professor of Textile Materials and Management. He taught both undergraduate and graduate courses on: fiber and polymer science; morphology of polymers; structure and properties of fiber-forming polymers; microscopy; general physics and mechanics.  He collaborated with several members of the faculty including: Richard D. Gilbert; T. Waller George, and David R. Buchanan of Textiles and Jasper D. Memory of Physics.  He guided 20 M.S. and 24 Ph. D.  students during his time at NC State.  He was the principle author and co-director of the School of Textiles Honors Program from 1974-1980.   His research concentrated on:

  • Solid State and High Resolution NMR of Polymeric Structures; 
  • Fine Structure of Fibers and Fiber Blends;
  • Properties and Structure of Fiber Reinforced Composites; 
  • Environmental Effects on Structure of Composites and Polymeric Coatings;
  • Analysis of Environmental Contaminants in Textile Processes;
  •  Epitaxy in Polymer Blends; 
  • Polymer Liquid Crystals;
  • and Structure and Morphology of Polymer Blends and Copolymers.

Fornes and Jasper Memory 1980 School of Textiles News, Jan 1980

Ray Fornes welcomes President George Bush to the Physics Department 1980
Courtesy Ray Fornes

Dean Chaney was approaching retirement in the early 1980s.   The college needed a facelift or even more.  A new dean Dame Hamby was selected who believed the future for textiles involved new technology and set about raising monies for new processing laboratories.  Fornes felt he personally needed to work in a more theoretical environment.  He moved to the Department of Physics in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences in 1984 while still maintaining ties to the College of Textiles as an associate member of the Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science Department.  He continued his research with Richard Gilbert and joined with Jasper Memory in Physics.  More than 125 publications were written.

He was the original organizer of the First, Second and Third Annual North Carolina State Undergraduate Research Symposia which began in the early 1990s.

Other Honors:

  • Election into North Carolina State University Academy of Outstanding Teachers, 1974
  • Young Scientist Research Award (NCSU) – Society of Sigma Xi, 1977
  • Fiber Society National Award for Distinguished Achievement in Fiber Science, 1982
  • Selected – “The Tar Heel of the Week”, Raleigh News & Observer, 1982
  • Visiting Senior Scientist, the National Academies 1997-98; 2000-2001
  • Alexander Quarles Holladay Medal, NCSU, 2008

This medal is given “to recognize members of the faculty who over their careers have made outstanding contributions to the University through their achievements in research, teaching, or extension and engagement. This award is intended to be the highest award made by the University in recognition of faculty achievement and a reward in recognition of the achievements and contributions of a faculty career at North Carolina State University.”

He retired from NC State as Associate Dean for Research, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and Emeritus Professor of Physics.

Family:  Married to the former Geraldine Hudson; twin sons Raymond and Timothy; and Todd.

Selected Publications (out of more than 125):

  1. “Evidence of Distinct Water Species in Cellulosic Environments by Use of Broadline NMR,” J. Polymer Sci. A2 17 199-211 (1979); W.W. Fleming, R.E. Fornes and J.D. Memory.
  2. “Evidence Specifying the Origin of the NMR Doublet in Oriented Macromolecular Systems,” Macromolecules 11 1057 (1978); W.W. Fleming, R.E. Fornes and J.D. Memory.
  3. “X-Ray Diffraction Studies of ABA Propylene-Ethylene Block Copolymers,” J. Appl. Polymer Sci. 25 2589-2595 (1980); P. Prabhu, R.E. Fornes and R.D. Gilbert.
  4. “Effect of 1.33 Mev Radiation and 0.5 Mev Electrons on the Mechanical Properties of Graphite Fiber Reinforced Composites,” J. Applied Polym. Sci. 26 2061-2067 (1981); R.E. Fornes, J.D.                Memory and N. Naranong.
  5. “Byssinoisis: Clinical and Research Issues,” Report of the National Research Council, Published by the National Academy Press,  Washington, DC, 1982;   J. Kleinerman et al. including R.E.                Fornes.
  6. “Investigations of Water and High-Energy Radiation Interactions in an Epoxy,” J. Appl. Polymer Sci. 29:311-318 (1984); A.N. Netravali, R.E. Fornes, R.D. Gilbert and J.D. Memory.
  7. “Chemical Modification of Cured MY 720/DDS Epoxy to Reduce Moisture Sensitivity,” J. Polymer Sci.-Chem. Ed. 25:1235-1248 (1987);  H.P. Hu, R.D. Gilbert and J.D. Memory.
  8. “Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (NEXAFS) Microscopy of a Polycarbonate/Poly (Acrylonitrile/Butadiene/ Styrene) Blend”, Journal of Polymer Sci., Part B Polymer Physics Edition,             39   pp. 310- 535 (2001)


Additional information and awards can be found at:



  1. Personal interview, Raymond E. Fornes, March 2012.
  2. Mock, Gary N., A Century of Progress: The Textile Program North Carolina State University 1899-1999North Carolina Textile Foundation, Raleigh, 2001.
  3. Tar Heel of the Week, Raleigh News & Observer, 1982.