Dr. Nick Holonyak – Inventor of the Visible Spectrum LED

Nick_Holonyak_JrNick Holonyak, Jr. was born in Zeigler, Illinois on 3 November 1928. He received the B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1950, 1951, and 1954, respectively. As a Texas Instruments Fellow in Semiconductor Physics at the University of Illinois (1953-54), he did graduate work under the direction of John Bardeen.

Dr. Holonyak joined the Technical Staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ in 1954. His work there included demonstration of the feasibility of the first diffused-impurity silicon devices. From 1955-57 he served with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and went to work for General Electric in Syracuse, NY, in 1957. Following up on some research that created an infrared light using gallium arsenide, Holonyak had the idea that a gallium arsenide phosphide would emit a visible red light. On October 9, 1962, he demonstrated this first visible spectrum light-emitting diode (LED), the device that now lights up countless clocks, traffic signals, and other electronic displays that we all use every day.

In 1963, Dr. Holonyak moved to the University of Illinois where he is currently Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Materials Research Laboratory, and a member of the Center for Advanced Study.  Holonyak has been responsible for several important breakthroughs, particularly in the area of crystal preparation of compounds and ternary alloys, light-emitting diodes, and semiconductor lasers. Since 1976, he has conducted extensive research on quantum-well and other novel light-emitting structures.

Dr. Holonyak’s contributions have been recognized by receipt of the following awards: the General Electric Company Cordiner Award (1962); the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Award (1973); the John Scott Medal of the City of Philadelphia (1975); the GaAs Symposium Award with Welker Medal (1976); the IEEE Jack A. Morton Award (1981); the Solid State Science and Technology Award of the Electrochemical Society (1983); Sigma Xi Monie A. Ferst Award (1988). He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the IEEE, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Physical Society. He has served on various IEEE, AIP, APS and NAS committees. At the invitation of the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, he has visited laboratories in the Soviet Union (1967, 1974), and in 1956-57 was a regular seminar speaker at the laboratory of Makoto Kikuchi of the Electrotechnical Laboratory (Tokyo). He was awarded the 1989 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.’ In 2003 he was named the recipient of the IEEE Medal of Honor for “a career of pioneering contributions to semiconductors, including the growth of semiconductor alloys and heterojunctions, and to visible light-emitting diodes and injection lasers.”

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[4] and is investigating methods for manufacturingquantum dot lasers.

Apart from his work and interests in semiconductor materials and devices, and research with his graduate students, Nick Holonyak enjoys reading, and some running and weightlifting. He is fluent in a second language, the Carpatho-Russian of his immigrant parents. His wife Katherine is a member of the nursing profession.


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