Over the years, several electrical engineers have won a Nobel prize
October has just ended; what a great month – great birthdays, great parties, Halloween celebrations in the U.S., and the appearance of beautiful fall colors in parts of the world. However, October was also Nobel Prize month, where each year, early in the month, these prestigious prizes are awarded in several technical areas – chemistry, physics, medicine – as well as economics, literature and peace. Over the years, several electrical engineers have been honored:
John Bardeen was an American physicist and electrical engineer, the only person to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice: first in 1956 for the invention of the transistor; and again in 1972 for a fundamental theory of conventional superconductivity known as the BCS theory. The transistor allowed the Information Age to occur, and made possible the development of almost every modern electronic device, from telephones to computers.
Bardeen’s developments in superconductivity, which won him his second Nobel, are used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In 1990, Bardeen appeared on LIFE Magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential Americans of the Century.” After attending the University of Wisconsin and Princeton, Bardeen was most closely associated with Bell Labs, and two other Big Ten universities – Minnesota and Illinois.
Another Nobel Laureate electrical engineer was Dennis Gabor, a Hungarian-British electrical engineer and inventor, most notable for inventing holography, for which he later received the 1971 Nobel Prize in Physics. Gabor matriculated at the Technical University of Berlin and the Technical University of Budapest. He was associated with the Imperial College-London and British Thomson-Houston (BTH), the latter being a British engineering and heavy industrial company.
Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield was an English electrical engineer who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his part in developing the diagnostic technique of X-ray computed tomography (CT). His name is associated with the Hounsfield scale, a quantitative measure of radiodensity used in evaluating CT scans. His career was spent at EMI Ltd.
Finally, the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Jack St. Clair Kilby for his invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 while working at Texas Instruments (TI). He is also the inventor of the handheld calculator and thermal printer. Kilby’s alma maters include the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin.
Consider the contributions each of these outstanding engineers and their colleagues have made to our progress. Electrical engineering software could hardly have achieved the important role it plays today without many of the achievements of these electrical engineers.