Tom Parry Jones

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Tom Parry Jones

Thomas "Tom" Parry Jones OBE (27 March 1935 – 11 January 2013)[1][2] was a Welsh scientist, inventor and entrepreneur, who was responsible for developing and marketing the first electronic breathalyser.

Early life, education and early career[edit]

He was born at Carreglefn, near Amlwch, Anglesey, North Wales, the son of a farmer.[3] He studied chemistry at Bangor University, graduating in 1958, and then took a doctorate at the University of Alberta, Canada, before being appointed as a lecturer at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, Oxfordshire. In 1964, he moved to the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) at Cardiff.[2]

Lion Laboratories[edit]

In 1967, Tom Jones established Lion Laboratories in Cardiff, with his colleague and Managing Director William "Bill" Ducie, an electrical engineer. [2] The Road Safety Act 1967 introduced the first legally enforceable maximum blood alcohol level for drivers in the UK, above which it became an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle; and introduced the roadside breathalyser, made available to police forces across the country.[4] In 1969, Lion Laboratories' version of the breathalyser, known as the Alcolyser and incorporating crystal-filled tubes that changed colour (yellow to green) above a certain level of alcohol in the breath. Lion Laboratories won the Queen's Award for Technological Achievement in 1980 for development of the first hand-held electronic breath-alcohol instrument (Alcolmeter), and this device was later marketed worldwide. Alcohol in the breath was analyzed by an electrochemical [fuel cell] sensor rather than chemical crystals, providing a more reliable kerbside screening test for alcohol influence. A positive test was then complemented by sampling blood or urine for analysis at a forensic laboratory. In 1983 breath-alcohol analysis was accepted for evidential purposes and Lion Intoximeter 3000 was the first instrument approved by the British Home Office for testing drunken drivers. More recently, a much more sophisticated breath-alcohol analyzer, the Lion Intoxilyzer 6000 is now used by the UK police for evidential purposes. In 1991, Lion Laboratories was sold to the American company MPD, Inc..[2]

Other activities[edit]

Parry Jones later set up PPM Technology, a company manufacturing instruments for monitoring toxic gases, and also established a small air charter company, Welsh Dragon Aviation.[2]

Endowment Fund[edit]

In about 2002, he established the Dr Tom Parry Jones Endowment Fund, at Bangor University, to encourage young people to develop careers and entrepreneurship in science and technology. The fund supports an annual Bangor Science Festival.[1][5] He was also chairman of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs; and a trustee of the Engineering Education Scheme for Wales.[2]

Honours and awards[edit]

He was awarded the OBE in 1986, and was inducted into the Gorsedd in 1997.[3]


On 11 January 2013 he died at Llandudno General Hospital, aged 77, having suffered with Parkinson's disease for 18 years.