Gregg, John Robert (1867–1948), shorthand inventor and promoter, was born in Shantonagh, Co. Monaghan, youngest child among four sons and a daughter of George Gregg, stationmaster at Rockcorry, and Margaret Gregg (née Johnston). The family moved to Rockcorry when John was five. A schoolteacher in Rockcorry national school struck him on the head; the resultant loss of hearing caused him to be regarded at home and at school as a dunce. He discovered the fascination of shorthand, however, and at the age of 10 mastered one of the stenographic systems then popular. The family moved to Glasgow in 1878; an old neighbour noticed the boy's intelligence, and encouraged him to further study. While working as clerk to a drunken solicitor, Gregg used free time in the office, and after work in the Mitchell Library, to study the principles of shorthand systems. A brother and sister died of tuberculosis, and the family's doctor recommended that Gregg should escape Glasgow's damp climate; in 1887 he joined another brother in Liverpool, and there published a pamphlet containing the first of several versions of his own shorthand system. With his sister Fanny (d. 1887), who had been a teacher of the deaf and dumb in Glasgow, he had worked out the rates of occurrence and co-occurrence of vowels in English, and incorporated this research with other insights into his new theory of representing speech in curvilinear, slanting transcriptions, based on natural hand movements. Great rapidity and accuracy were possible once his system was mastered. He operated a shorthand school in Liverpool until August 1893, when he emigrated to Boston, USA, arriving with only $30. He was relatively unsuccessful there, but prospered after moving to Chicago in 1895. He republished his handbooks many times, and sent his best students to demonstrate the merits of his system around the country in speed trials in which they were generally victorious. Gregg's shorthand was increasingly adopted by colleges and schools, and he set up his own shorthand schools; millions of people in America and worldwide, desirous of employment in the expanding businesses of the time, learned Gregg's stenographic language. Gregg increasingly concentrated on the publishing side of his business, and produced millions of copies of his manuals and workbooks. In 1930, for instance, he published Gregg shorthand adapted to Irish by Kathleen Cruise O'Brien (qv). Gregg promoted the use of shorthand with great fervour and business acumen, and wrote numerous articles in his own journals, the Gregg Writer and Business Education World. He advocated the use of Esperanto and collected artworks. Gregg died 23 February 1948, after heart surgery in New York, and was buried in New Canaan, Connecticut.
He married (3 July 1899) Maida Wasson of Missouri (d. 1928); there were no children, and he married secondly (23 October 1930) Janet F. Kinley, daughter of David Kinley, president of the University of Illinois. They had a son and daughter.