Date of birth 16th June 1932. Sir Ralph was educated at Herbert Strutt School and Imperial College, London, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree. He joined Rolls-Royce at Derby as a Graduate Apprentice in 1955 and worked on the development of civil engines for several years, in particular on the Conway turbofan which powered the Vickers VC10 and Handley-Page Victor.
In 1966 he moved into programme management and in the following year was appointed Executive Assistant to the Managing Director of the Aero Engine Division. In 1972 Sir Ralph transferred to the United States as Executive Vice President of Rolls-Royce Aero Engines Inc. He was appointed Managing Director of the Rolls-Royce Industrial and Marine Division at Ansty, near Coventry, in May 1973.
He was appointed Commercial Director of the Company in March 1978, elected to the Board in March 1982 when Commercial Director and appointed Managing Director in November 1984. He became Deputy Chairman in June 1989 and Chief Executive in January 1991. From July 1983 until his appointment as Managing Director he was Director – Civil Engines. He was Chairman of Rolls-Royce plc from 1992 to 2003, and has been a consultant to the company since then. His time at the top of Rolls-Royce was directly linked to the rise of the company in the civil market, especially with the RB211, Trent family, 535 and IAE V2500, to its current position of pre-eminence in the widebody airliner market, where it has a 54% share of aircraft on order.
Sir Ralph was Chairman of the Defence Industries Council 1986-2003 and President of the Society of British Aerospace Companies 1986-7. He has been a Director of Marshall of Cambridge Holdings since 2004, and outside the aviation industry has served on the boards of, amongst others, Standard Chartered, Schroders, Marks & Spencer and Cable & Wireless. He is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a Fellow of Imperial College and holds seven Honorary Doctorates from UK Universities.
He was a patron of the Battle of Britain Monument in London appeal and a Trustee of Brooklands Museum for 16 years until 2014. Sir Ralph, who was knighted in 1988, is married with two daughters and lives in London and Derbyshire. His interests are music, golf and classic cars – he is still racing his 1930s Bentley and Delahaye.