The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics was just awarded to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”. While quantum computers might be the future, today is also celebrating the 50th year since Nick Holonyak Jr. invented the first visible LED. Dr. Holonyak was 33 years old and a GE scientist when he created what now has applications from traffic signals to TVs and all over PCs.
Dr. Holonyak became a professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (my alma mater) in 1963, where he had previously received his undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. He was the first Ph.D. student of John Bardeen, who co-invented the transistor. Holonyak holds 41 patents for various electrical components and inventions.
Today, the University of Illinois is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention in 1962 with cake, a separate cake with LED candles, and a talk by Dr. Holonyak. A symposium is also coming October 24th and 25th in Champaign where Nobel laureates will discuss his work.
GE provided a press release today to also celebrate the invention of the LED while Holonyak was under their employ. LEDs are everywhere today. They’re creating more durable and more energy-efficient products. The world would be a different place without the LED and we are still unleashing the potential as they become cheaper, brighter, and more compact. LEDs are so ubiquitous you may not even notice them any more. Today, on the 50th anniversary of their invention, look around for the Light-Emitting Diode and be thankful that Dr. Holonyak chose to pursue higher education over a life of labor in Southern Illinois.