Lawrence Sanford was born in Tucson, Arizona, on April 18, 1925. He played tackle on his high school football team, and it was not unusual to travel 600 miles by train to play against a team in California. He also had a special love and talent for physics, chemistry, and math. Following his high school graduation, Dr. Sanford joined the U.S. Navy, where he achieved responsibility for an advanced radar anti-aircraft aiming system.
By 1950, Dr. Sanford had earned his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Arizona, followed by a master of science degree from Cornell University in 1951. By 1955, he had also earned his doctorate from Cornell. He joined The Proctor & Gamble Company in 1955.
During his 23 years with the paper products division, he provided outstanding leadership in paper process development. His efforts led to new papermaking processes that propelled the Charmin and Bounty brands to product superiority and category leadership.
Dr. Sanford championed and led the development of P & G’s blowthrough-drying process, which revolutionized the way low-density paper is made. The process provides a differential-density sheet with higher caliper than the conventional papermaking process. Blow-through-drying affords high-density areas that provide strength and low-density areas that provide improved absorbency. The latter was the inspiration for the ubiquitous recognition of Bounty towels as the “quicker picker-upper.”
The conventional tissue-making process involves mechanically squeezing most of the water out of the tissue web. The low-density blow-through-drying process offered the potential for huge product and economic advantages, but it was not without major technical problems and controversy. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake and the new low-density process unproved, Dr. Sanford took charge of a team to deliver an economically justified and reliable manufacturing process.
Dr. Sanford, who holds three key U.S. patents, demonstrated the potential of the new process in a pilot plant. In addition to developing the theory and economic analysis, he persuaded the company that the risk of high capital investments was acceptable. Under his leadership, a group of engineers and scientists successfully designed full-scale paper machines and established the training of manufacturing technicians to operate the process. Because of Dr. Sanford’s determination, dedication, and leadership, the blow-through-drying process was commercialized, thereby establishing P & G as a leader in the tissue business.
Building on Dr. Sanford’s efforts, P & G improved the way it produces drying belts, allowing further improvements in both efficient fiber utilization and superior tissue-product attributes. After the expiration of the original patents on the blowthrough-drying patents, other companies adopted the process with modifications for tissue products, making it the preferred way in which the majority of premium consumer products are produced. The real winner was the consumer, who was the benefactor of greatly-superior tissue and towel products.
The process, which was commercialized during the 1970s, completely changed the platform of competition for tissue and towel consumer products by providing superior softness and absorbency in the Charmin and Bounty brands. Procter and Gamble’s products made with the blow-through-drying process account for over $2 billion in annual sales.
In recognition of his outstanding technical leadership, the company appointed Dr. Sanford associate director in 1967.
A consuming hobby of his has been growing orchids. His specimens compete on a national level, and since his retirement from P & G in 1990, he has become a Certified Judge of the American Orchid Society. Dr. Sanford and his wife, Patience, raised four children. They maintain their home in Cincinnati, Ohio.