SWITZER, ROBERT C. (19 May 1914-20 Aug. 1997), inventor, entrepreneur, and environmentalist, co-founded the Day-Glo Color Corp., a trade name that became synonymous with the fluorescent dyes and paints that he and his brother, Joseph, first invented in the 1930s. Born in Fromberg, Montana, the son of Maud (Slocum), a homemaker, and Emmet Switzer, a pharmacist, he moved to Berkeley, CA, with his family and attended the University of California at Berkeley on a scholarship from the Scaife Foundation of Oakland. Before his graduation in 1935, Robert and Joseph had already begun to experiment with mixing fluorescent compounds and shellac in the family bathtub, yielding the first glow-in-the-dark paint which they displayed at a 1934 magicians' convention in Oakland.
Around the same time, Robert, who was trained in metallurgy, was working on a method for determining flaws in metal machine parts. He was awarded a patent in 1936, the same year that a contract with the SHERWIN-WILLIAMS CO. brought Robert and Joseph to Cleveland. The Switzers' early fluorescent products ranged from paints used in theatrical posters and chorus girls' skirts, to bright fabrics used as signaling devices by Allied troops during WORLD WAR II.
In 1946, they created their own company, Switzer Brothers Inc., changing the name to Day-Glo Color Corp. in 1969. Switzer was president and chief executive officer of Day-Glo until 1976 (Joseph died in 1973), then chairman of the board until his retirement in 1985, when he sold the company and established the Robert C. and Patricia D. Switzer Environmental Foundation which funds fellowships for doctoral students in the environmental sciences, leadership grants to organizations, and lobbying efforts concerned with environmental legislation.
An avid boater, waterskier, scuba diver and underwater photographer, Switzer had long been aware of the effects of chemical and other industrial pollutants, and was always scrupulous about complying with environmental laws, frequently exceeding the minimum government standards for polluton control. The American Society for Nondestructive Testing awarded Switzer a Philip D. Johnson Honorary Membership in 1990, and in 1993 he received the New England Environmental Network Leadership Award.
Switzer married Patricia Davison in 1936 and they had three children: Brian Carl, Paul Edward, and Ann Patricia. He died of Parkinson's disease at his home in SHAKER HEIGHTS and is buried at Knollwood Mausoleum.