Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Not to make light of things

This morning brings news that the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Charles K. Kao, Willard S. Boyle, and George E. Smith.  Kao was recognized for his work with fiber-optic cables, central to modern digital networks. Boyle and Smith were recognized for their work with charge-coupled devices, the key component of digital cameras.

Well deserved recognition, of course. And yet, I'm struck by whom the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences continues to slight: Nick Holonyak.

Holonyak invented: the visible-light light-emitting diode (LED) and laser diode. Think: the guts of every CD and DVD player. Think: LED screens on many gadgets (including many large-format digital TVs). Think: the coming replacement of incandescent bulbs and (those abominations) compact fluorescent bulbs with energy-sipping LED-based bulbs. Think barcode scanners. And think: the light source that puts digital information into Kao's fiber-optic cables, which is almost always a semiconductor laser.

Holonyak's honors include: the IEEE Medal of Honor, the National Medal of Technology, the Lemelson MIT Prize, and the Japan Prize.

So: in a year when the Physics Nobel is for accomplishments in optronics -- why not recognize Holonyak?

(Incidentally, Holonyak is also a terrific teacher. I took a course on semiconductor physics from him, in my [long ago] University of Illinois days.  The U of I has a terrific physics department, with -- to date -- thirteen Nobel laureates to its credit. Holonyak still teaches there, at age 81.)

1 comment:

prof prem raj pushpakaran said...

Prof. Prem raj Pushpakaran writes -- 2024 marks the birth centenary year of Willard Sterling Boyle and let us celebrate the occasion!!!