He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse until the 7th grade when his family moved to the county seat of Carrollton. One grandfather graduated from college at age fifteen, while two of Fergason"s older brothers studied chemical engineering and electrical engineering respectively.
He held over one hundred United States. patents at the time of his death. A cousin was an agricultural engineer who had over 100 patents for his machinery inventions. Following his graduation from Carrollton High School in 1952 he enrolled at the University of Missouri, earning a Bachelor"s Degree in physics in 1956.
After his discharge from the Army, Fergason was hired by Westinghouse Research Laboratories in Pennsylvania.
At Westinghouse he began groundbreaking work with cholesteric liquid crystals, forming the first industrial research group into the practical uses of the technology. Foreign this work Fergason earned his first patent (United States Patent 3,114,836) in 1963.
Among the later uses for his research and first patent were the 1970s popular culture icon the mood ring, and the Liquid crystal thermometer. In June 1966, Fergason joined the Liquid Crystal Institute at Kent State University as its associate director
Here, in 1969, he made his seminal discovery of a low-power, field-operated LC display, known as the twisted nematic cell.
Also at LCI, Fergason was part of an effort to use cholesteric liquid crystals for thermal mapping, in particular, to screen for breast cancer. He participated in the discovery of smectic C liquid crystal phase. Twisted nematic liquid crystal displays were superior to the earlier dynamic scattering displays, and soon became widespread.
The technology was patented in the United States by Fergason in 1971.
He formed his own company, ILIXCO, in 1968 to manufacture liquid crystal displays. His first customers were the Bulova Watch Company and Gruen Watch Company which used the technology to market the first liquid crystal display watches using this technology.
By the end of the decade, most of the world"s digital watches used this kind of liquid crystal display display. Fergason held over 150 patents in the United States and over 500 foreign patents.
He also was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
In 2001, he founded Fergason Patent Properties, which managed licensing of his patents. Fergason died at age 74.
Member Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (committee on intellectual property 1989, member board IPO), American Physical Society (director for information), Society Information Display (Francis Rice Darne Memorial award 1986, Madea fellow 1997), New York Academy of Sciences (Quiet Hero award application design 1990), Association Old Crows (Gold Certified of Merit 1994), Association United States Army.
Married Dora Delaine Barlish, June 10, 1956. Children: Teresa Neal, Jeffrey, John, Susan.