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  • LCD Inventor Receives Kyoto Prize
Nov 2005
KYOTO, Japan, Nov. 11 -- George H. Heilmeier, chairman emeritus of Telcordia Technologies Inc., received the 2005 Kyoto prize in Advanced Technology for his groundbreaking research in the field of liquid crystals and his contributions to the development of the liquid crystal display (LCD).
Hailmeier, of Dallas, Texas, was among three winners of the 21st Annual Kyoto Prizes, awarded Thursday. Th Inamori Foundation sponsors the awards to recognize individuals and groups worldwide who have contributed to human progress in the areas of advanced technology, basic sciences and arts and philosophy.

Each laureate received a diploma, a Kyoto Prize gold medal and a cash gift of 50 million yen (about US$400,000) during ceremonies at the Kyoto International Conference Hall. The laureates will also convene for the third annual Kyoto Laureate Symposium, March 3-5 at the University of San Diego in San Diego, Calif.

Although they were discovered in 1888, liquid crystals remained a laboratory curiosity for decades, eventually fading from the forefront of science, the foundation said in a statement. During the early 1960s, the late Richard Williams discovered electro-optic effects in liquid crystals through his research at RCA Laboratories. In learning this, Heilmeier felt the challenge to produce flat-panel displays using liquid crystals' unique properties, the foundation ssaid, and in 1964, he discovered that an applied voltage could change the color of a dye-doped nematic liquid crystal. Later, he found that certain classes of nematic liquid crystals would turn from transparent to milky white when exposed to an electric field. This phenomenon, called "dynamic scattering," is what made flat-panel liquid crystal displays possible.

At a press conference in 1968, RCA unveiled the world's first liquid crystal display prototypes, created by Heilmeier and his co-workers, which immediately attracted the interest of researchers worldwide. The first commercial applications for LCDs began appearing in the early 1970s, led by Sharp's EL805 portable electronic calculator, which consumed as little as one percent of the power required by calculators employing fluorescent-tube displays. Researchers began improving LCD technology through miniaturization, higher resolution and even lower power requirements. Heilmeier's efforts to create a foundation for LCD technology thus triggered a revolutionary shift from cathode-ray tubes.

The 2005 Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences was presented to Princeton University professor Simon A. Levin for establishing the field of "spatial ecology" and expanding scientific understanding of the biosphere as a "complex adaptive system." The Kyoto Price in Arts and Philosophy went to Maestro Nikolaus Harnoncourt, of St. Georgen, Austria.

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