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Nick Holonyak,

"The Father Of The LED."


The Father Of The LED
Nick Holonyak, Jr. (born in Zeigler, Illinois on November 3, 1928) invented the first visible LED in 1962 while working as a consulting scientist at a General Electric Company laboratory in Syracuse, New York and has been called "the father of the light-emitting diode".

He is a John Bardeen Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics and Professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he has been since 1993.

His Beginnings
Holonyak's parents were Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants who settled in Southern Illinois; Holonyak's father worked in a coal mine.
Holonyak was the first member of his family to receive any type of formal schooling. He once worked 30 straight hours on the Illinois Central Railroad before realizing that a life of hard labor was not what he wanted and he'd prefer to go to school instead.
According to Knight Ridder, "The cheap and reliable semiconductor lasers critical to DVD players, bar code readers and scores of other devices owe their existence in some small way to the demanding workload thrust upon Downstate railroad crews decades ago."

The Inventor Of The Transistor's First Ph.D. Student
Holonyak was John Bardeen's first Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his undergraduate, master's, and Ph.D. (1954) from the same university. He created the first visible semiconductor lasers in 1960.
In 1963, he again joined Dr. Bardeen, the inventor of the transistor, at the University of Illinois and worked on quantum wells and quantum-well lasers.

In addition to introducing the III-V alloy LED, Holonyak holds 41 patents. His other inventions include the red-light semiconductor laser, usually called the laser diode (used in CD and DVD players and cell phones) and the shorted emitter p-n-p-n switch (used in light dimmers and power tools). He helped create the first light dimmer while at GE.

His Prediction Is Coming True
Holonyak predicted that his LEDs would replace the incandescent light bulb of Thomas Edison in the February 1963 issue of Reader's Digest, and as LEDs improve in quality and efficiency they are gradually replacing incandescents as the bulb of choice.

Two Out Of Five
In 2006, the American Institute of Physics decided on the five most important papers in each of its journals since it was founded 75 years ago. Two of these five papers, in the journal Applied Physics Letters, were co-authored by Holonyak. The first one, coauthored with S. F. Bevacqua in 1962, announced the creation of the first visible-light LED.
The second, co-authored primarily with Milton Feng in 2005, announced the creation of a transistor laser that can operate at room temperatures.

Where Is He Now?
As of 2007, he is the John Bardeen Endowed Chair Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is investigating methods for manufacturing quantum dot lasers.
He has been married to his wife Katherine for 51 years. He no longer teaches classes, but he researches full-time. He and Dr. Milton Feng run a transistor laser research center at the University funded by $6.5 million from the United States Department of Defense through DARPA.
10 of his 60 former doctoral students develop new uses for LED technology at Philips Lumileds Lighting Company in Silicon Valley.

Awards and honors
Holonyak has been presented awards by George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Emperor Akihito of Japan and Vladimir Putin.

In 1989, Holonyak received the IEEE Edison Medal for 'an outstanding career in the field of electrical engineering with contributions to major advances in the field of semiconductor materials and devices.'
Holonyak's former student, Russell Dupuis from the Georgia Institute of Technology, won this same award in 2007.

In 1995, he was awarded the $500,000 Japan Prize for 'Outstanding contributions to research and practical applications of light emitting diodes and lasers.'

In 2003, he was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor. He has also received the Global Energy International Prize, the National Medal of Technology, the Order of Lincoln Medallion, and the 2004 Lemelson-MIT Prize, also worth $500,000.

He has also received the Frederic Ives Medal of the Optical Society of America.

Many colleagues have expressed their belief that he deserves the Nobel Prize for his invention of the LED. On this subject, Holonyak says, "It's ridiculous to think that somebody owes you something. We're lucky to be alive, when it comes down to it."

A Historical Marker In His Honor.
On 9 November 2007, Holonyak was honored on the University of Illinois campus with a historical marker recognizing his development of the quantum-well laser.

Colleagues, friends, and students gathered at a reception to celebrate Holonyak at the unveiling of the historical marker, located just north of Everitt Lab at the site of the old Electrical Engineering Research Laboratory (EERL) on the Bardeen Quadrangle.
Among the attendees was University of Illinois President B. Joseph White. Speaking to the gathering, he related the story of his first encounter with Holonyak after being appointed president three years ago. He said he did not know of Holonyak when they met during a chance encounter. White asked him to tell him about himself. In explanation, Holonyak simply replied, "Well, I’m pretty famous around here." "I immediately went to my office, I did my homework, and only then did I realize that perhaps only could Nick say that and have it be a modest statement," said White. "And it actually was.
That was my occasion to learn about a man who is a great inventor, whose life story is absolutely astounding, a man who has changed, and is changing, the world. A man who has educated so many people coming behind him."

At age 79, Holonyak had accomplished much in his lifetime. He returned to Illinois as a faculty member in 1963, and with his students in 1977, demonstrated the first quantum-well laser. The development allowed for fiber optic communications, CD players, and advances in the field of medicine.

At the reception, ECE Department Head Richard Blahut presented Holonyak with a brick from the old EERL building. The inscription on the brick read, "The foundation you’ve laid through your work and through the people you’ve touched, both at the University of Illinois and far beyond, will support new innovations, new discoveries, and the education of new engineers for many years to come,"
Blahut himself shared his personal connection to Holonyak and his work.
"When I was a boy...I learned about the great engineers of the world," Blahut announced. "I learned about Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, Samuel F.B. Morse, Guglielmo Marconi, and many others. And I regretted the fact that at my young age, I knew that in my lifetime I would never meet one of these great people. It never occurred to me that I would, in fact, meet someone at the level of these men--Nick Holonyak. I have met a man of the equal of my childhood heroes, and so I can die happily," he said.

Holonyak said it is important to appreciate those who think outside the box and stretch the limits of what they know to be true.
"When I came here, I didn’t realize that I had come to a place where you learn to learn," he said. "You’re going to run into the kind of mind that is on the boundary of looking for something more. I think you must always look for those kinds of people. No place is going to be worth much if it doesn’t have the people who know how to go to the boundary and find what there is further. We have to learn to be able to cope with what there is ahead. I hope, more than anything else, that the U of I flourishes because it is a special place. It’s where young people can get started."

Illinois Provost Linda Katehi, also an ECE professor, said Holonyak is known for the quality and uniqueness of his research, as well as its widespread appeal and impact in the commercial sector and products people use on a daily basis.
"The work that...Nick has done, for electrical engineering and for science and for physics, is amazing," said Katehi. "Nick’s name has been really very well known among all of us who have done work in the area [of electrical engineering], in his immediate area, or in other connected areas," she continued. "Something else unique about Nick is the intensity with which he produces new ideas, and his intensity as an individual in terms of the discipline he brings to the thought, and the discipline he brings to the work with his students."

Ilesamni Adesida, ECE professor and College of Engineering dean, marveled at Holonyak’s excellence in his research area.
"The number of students--great students--who are now great scientists or entrepreneurs in the field--whether it is LED, transistors, or lasers--just trace it. Everything goes back to Nick," he said. "So that’s the [evidence of the] pervasiveness of his influence in this field. The work that Nick has done has defined the field, and I’m sure it will define it for succeeding generations."

In 2008, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (Announced February 14, 2008) (May 2-3, 2008 at Akron, Ohio).

“Nick Holonyak’s inventions, like all great works of scientific inspiration, have changed our world,” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “Think, for a moment, of the impact of LEDs. Today, they are ubiquitous, in games, household products, medical equipment, automobiles and countless other applications. Honoring Nick Holonyak’s inventions is yet one more recognition of the extraordinary significance of his work.”

On a personal note, Nick is truly an inspiration. I'm sure a countless group of others would have accomplished what he has eventually, but to do all the great things he has done in his 55 years in the field of electronics is amazing.

Thank you Nick!


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