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  • Holonyak Wins Lemelson-MIT Prize
Apr 2004
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 26 -- Nick Holonyak, inventor of the LED, received the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for Invention at the 10th annual Lemelson-MIT Awards Ceremony, held Friday at MIT.

Edith Flanagan, whose pioneering work in chemistry and materials science helped make petroleum refinement cleaner and safer, received the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes her cumulative achievements and her contributions to technological progress and invention.

2004 Lemelson-MIT Prize winner Nick Holonyak Jr. (Photo: Bill Wiegand, University of Illinois News Bureau)
Holonyak, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics at the University of Illinois, invented the first practical LED in 1962. He continues to refine his original invention and pursue new applications for it: His current research with colleague Milton Feng is in light-emitting transistors, which could dramatically improve the speed and availability of electronic communications.

Holonyak was the first student of John Bardeen, one of the inventors of the transistor, at the University of Illinois in the early 1950s. After finishing graduate school in 1954, Holonyak took a job with Bell Labs and was part of a team whose work led to the invention of the integrated circuit. Later, at General Electric, Holonyak invented the shorted emitter p-n-p-n switch, now widely used in household dimmer switches and power tools.

"I learned pretty early in life that you don't have to learn everything to be able to do something. With inventing, you are attempting to solve a problem within your reach, not trying to resolve the world's greatest problems," said the 75-year-old Holonyak. "I tell my students, You only have to succeed once, and then you'll have the confidence and a basis of knowledge for continued successes."

The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by MIT’s School of Engineering.

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