John Turner, senior chemist at Cotton Incorporated, is retiring and leaving a legacy of achievements that continues to benefit both U.S. cotton growers and consumers across the globe.
“If there is any doubt about the impact that Dr. Turner has had on the apparel industry, just try and find a pair of men's khaki pants that's not treated with wrinkle resistant technology — a technology made commercially practical by Dr. Turner,” touts J. Berrye Worsham, president and CEO of Cotton Incorporated.
Working for Cotton Incorporated since 1971, Turner's May 1, retirement date brought an end to one of the most successful research careers in the history of the Cotton Research & Promotion Program.
At the beginning of his career, the concept of “durable press” (aka wrinkle resistance) was only considered realistic for synthetic fibers. “When I joined Cotton Incorporated, cotton consumption was at an all-time low in the apparel area,” explains Turner. When cotton's market share scraped bottom somewhere around 34 percent, the challenge became one of increasing consumer interest in cotton. Turner answered that challenge by creating a wrinkle resistant finish for cotton shirts.
Consumer preference for natural fibers returned by the late 70s, but it took several more years for wrinkle-resistant technology to make its way into the pants market. When it did, it took off. According to data from STS Market Research, cotton holds a 61 percent share of 100 percent cotton men's slacks apparel category, on a unit basis, for 2001.
Turner also left his mark on the agricultural research side of the tracks as well. “When we first started research to improve cottonseed's handling characteristics, John suggested various compounds that were being used to reduce the fuzziness buildup that occurs during the weaving of cotton yarn. His suggestion to try a combination of starch and hot water worked and ended up being the best and easiest solution,” explains Tom Wedegaertner, director, Cottonseed Research & Marketing for Cotton Incorporated.
Turner also created a process to test cotton stickiness — still a potential problem for textile mills today. “The test involves spraying an aerosol compound on cotton fiber, covering it with saran wrap and microwaving it for a short period,” explains Turner. A U.S. company is manufacturing and selling this aerosol spray still today.
Turner also created and was awarded a patent for the first spray that was eventually used to identify seed cotton modules.