LED Inventor Speaks on its 50th Anniversary

Oct 10, 2012

It is a year of honors for University of Illinois Engineering and Physics Professor Nick Holonyak Jr. The inventor of the first light-emitting diode, or LED, addressed a crowd of students and faculty this week on the 50th anniversary of that innovation.

Uses for the LED include instrument panels and bike tail lights, to lasers than run CD and DVD players.  But Holonyak credits many, including Nobel Prize-winning physicist John Bardeen, for bringing him back to campus, and helping make these and other innovations possible.  And he sought to convince current students there’s always more to be done:

“I go back almost to the beginning of a very primitive thing called the transistor.  And look what has happened?  Enough to wipe out John, and wiping out me, and all that, and I see plenty for all of you to do.  It’s not all in your head, it’s part of how willing you are to keep yourself going – not being too lazy physically or mentally.” 

   -Nick Holonyak Jr., inventor of LED

The 83-year-old Holonyak took questions in front of more than 100 people at the U of I Tuesday.   U of I Engineering Professor John Dallesassie was a student of Holonyak’s during the 1980’s:

“He has a true excitement about science and technology – to this day.  He’s 83, turning 84 years old – it’s very hard for him to get around – yet every day, he comes into the building because he can talk to us about science, engineering, and technology because he just loves it.  And he basically fills all the people that he interacts with with that same level of excitement.”

                            -John Dallasassie, former student of Holonyak

Holonyak will be honored again this month.  Nobel Laureates will discuss his accomplishments at an LED symposium in Champaign October 24th and 25.

Illinois Public Radio's Jeff Bossert contributed to this report