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George E. Smith


George E. Smith

George E. Smith is one of the recipients of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics.

National Academy of Engineering

Personal Information:

Full name: George Elwood Smith

Birth date: May 10, 1930

Nationality: American


George Smith received a B.S. degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. In 1959, he obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Development of Charge-Coupled Devices:

Smith worked at Bell Laboratories from 1959 through 1989, where along with Willard Boyle he performed groundbreaking research into the development of charge-coupled devices. Charge-coupled devices are a means of passing "charge bubbles" along a chain of semiconductors, so that visual images are obtained electronically without the need for film. It was developed as an alternative to the "magnetic bubble" technology that was becoming popular at the time, so that his team would not lose funding.

A Fast Meeting:

In a 2009 review of his work (quoted in the Nobel's scientific background paper), Smith discusses the October 17, 1969 meeting that laid the foundation for the CCD.
"In a discussion lasting not more than an hour, the basic structure of the CCD was sketched out on the blackboard, the principles of operation defined, and some preliminary ideas concerning applications were developed."
In my opinion, it is fascinating to note that an idea which revolutionized technology and earned a Nobel was initially hammered out in "not more than an hour".


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