Digital Imaging Sensor Pioneer - Willard S. Boyle
Karen A. Newman
As we were wrapping
up this issue of Photonics Spectra, word reached us of the May 7 death in Canada
of Willard S. Boyle, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on
the first digital imaging sensor, which led to the digital photography revolution.
Boyle shared the prize with George E. Smith, with whom he worked
at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J. Their CCD used the photoelectric effect
theorized by Albert Einstein to transform light into electric signals. The major
challenge was determining how to gather and read out those signals into a large
number of pixels in a short burst of time.
According to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, Willard Sterling
Boyle was born Aug. 19, 1924, in the Nova Scotia town of Amherst. He left Montréal’s
McGill University in 1943 to be a Spitfire pilot, returning to school after the
war. He earned his doctorate in physics in 1950 and taught physics briefly at Royal
Military College of Canada before relocating to the US to work for Bell Labs, from
which he retired in 1979.
A third recipient of the 2009 physics prize was Charles K. Kao,
a founding father of fiber optics. At the time of the awards, H. Frederick Dylla,
executive director of the American Institute of Physics, said, “Taken together,
these [two] inventions may have had a greater impact on humanity than any others
in the last half century.”
There were several industry events on the calendar in April and
May, including SPIE’s Defense, Security & Sensing, OSA’s CLEO, SPIE
Optifab and LASER World of Photonics, to name just a few.
At DSS, Women in Optics hosted a reception featuring a presentation
by Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, who is retired from the optical industry and is now
working as a forensic genealogist. She was part of a team that successfully used
process-of-elimination, genealogic detective work, and prints and DNA taken from
a severed hand to identify the remains of one of 30 people who died in the 1948
crash of Northwest Flight 4422. Fitzpatrick told Photonics Media that she called
upon her extensive scientific background and career in optics to help her in the
very scientific analysis required to identify the remains.
At both Defense, Security & Sensing and at CLEO, town hall-type
meetings were held to solicit industry comment on Harnessing Light II, a study sponsored
by the National Academy of Sciences and others tasked in part with reviewing updates
to the state of optics and photonics science since 1988 and the technological opportunities
based on those advances. The study will assess the following: research trends, market
and work force needs, how to translate innovation into competitive advantages, manufacturing
infrastructure and the impact of photonics on the national economy.
“Photonics is in the midst of a transition from a mere
specialty to a key enabling technology,” said Dr. Georg Schütte, state
secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, while speaking at the
opening event of the LASER World of Photonics Congress. He told the crowd that photonics
is very much a part of the federal technology strategy, adding that the German photonics
industry has recovered quite well from the economic crises.
You can view brief live reports from these events along with other
interesting news of the week on Light Matters at www.photonics.com/lightmatters.
- digital photography
- A form of photography in which an electronic camera converts an image to an electronic signal that is stored in digital format on magnetic media or film.
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