Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another Great Boyle in the News!

Willard Boyle

Willard Sterling Boyle, one of the Fathers of Digital Photography Born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, he was the son of a medical doctor and moved to Quebec with his father and mother Beatrice when he was three. He was home schooled by his mother until age fourteen, when he attended Montreal's Lower Canada College to complete his secondary education. Boyle attended McGill University, but his education was interrupted in 1943, when he joined the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He was loaned to the Britain's Royal Navy, where he was learning how to land Spitfires on aircraft carriers as the war ended. He gained a BSc (1947), MSc (1948) and PhD (1950) from McGill University. After receiving his doctorate Boyle spent one year at Canada's Radiation Lab and two years teaching physics at the Royal Military College of Canada. In 1953 Boyle joined Bell Labs where he invented the first continuously operating ruby laser with Don Nelson in 1962, and was named on the first patent for a semiconductor injection laser. He was made director of Space Science and Exploratory Studies at the Bell Labs subsidiary Bellcomm in 1962, providing support for the Apollo space program and helping to select lunar landing sites. He returned to Bell Labs in 1964, working on the development of integrated circuits.

In 1969, Boyle and George E. Smith invented the charge-coupled device (CCD), for which they have jointly received the Franklin Institute's Stuart Ballantine Medal in 1973, the 1974 IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award, the 2006 Charles Stark Draper Prize, and the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Boyle was Executive Director of Research for Bell Labs from 1975 until his retirement in 1979. In retirement, he settled in Wallace, Nova Scotia, and helped launch an art gallery with his wife Betty, a landscape artist.

Boyle and Smith will share the prize!

The day Boyle and Smith invented the CCD sensor

(AFP) – 9 hours ago

STOCKHOLM — The CCD sensor, the digital camera's "electronic eye" which earned inventors Willard Boyle and George Smith the Nobel Physics Prize on Tuesday, was drawn up in a few hours in October 1969.

It was 8:30 am, 40 years ago, and Willard Boyle was sitting in his office at Bell Laboratories in the US state of New Jersey. The videophone rang, and it was Jack Morton, Boyle's boss, according to an account on the Canadian website cited by the Nobel committee.

"What are you semiconductor guys doing? The heck with transistors. Try and come up with something different. I'll call tomorrow."

After lunch, Boyle was joined by his colleague George Smith, and together they worked on "an idea for handling little pockets of charge in a silicon matrix," the website explained.

The pair "fiddled with some math and drew some sketches on the blackboard," with Boyle declaring: "Okay, this looks pretty good," after about an hour and a half of brainstorming.

"We should name it something," suggested Smith.

"Well, we've got a new device here. It's not a transistor, it's something different," replied Boyle.

"It's got a charge. And we're moving the charge around by coupling potential wells," said Smith.

"Let's call it a charge coupled device," said Boyle.

"Sure,'CCD'. That's got a nice ring to it," Smith agreed.

The CCD was at that point only a theory, explained the website, which was quoted in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' press release announcing Tuesday's Nobel laureates in physics.

Boyle and Smith decided to take their invention one step further, and took the plans to the workshop down the hall to see if the CCD could be made.

"Some months later it was made, and it worked exactly as expected," the website said, noting that CCDs can, in addition to their use as image sensors, be used as computer memory, electronic filters and signal processors.

"As imaging devices, they have revolutionised astronomy; virtually every large telescope... uses CCDs because they are about 100 times more sensitive than photographic film and work across a much broader spectrum of wavelengths of light," said the website, run by a non-profit society based in western Canada.



Willard Boyle

N.S. resident, father of digital photos, shares 2009 Nobel Prize in physics

Tue Oct 6, 6:04 PM

By Michael Macdonald, The Canadian Press

HALIFAX, N.S. - Willard Boyle was born in a small town in Nova Scotia and spent most of his childhood in a rough-and-tumble logging community in northern Quebec, where his mother home-schooled him in a log cabin.

His nickname was Butch.

It was an unlikely beginning for a man who would later help invent a complex gizmo that would lead to the birth of digital photography, earning him the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics.

Boyle, who learned of winning the prestigious award Tuesday at 5 a.m., said much of the credit for his groundbreaking work should go to his mother, who always inspired him to do great things.

"She liked to read about science and then ask me to explain to her how this worked ... 'How did they do this?' " the 85-year-old Halifax resident said in an interview.

"She felt I could do no wrong ... I knew differently, but that didn't bother her. She was convinced that I was the brightest thing on two legs. That helped, really."

When he was 14, he was sent to Lower Canada College, a private school in Montreal, where one teacher challenged him to excel at physics. He went on to earn a PhD in physics at Montreal's McGill University.

He was a fighter pilot during the Second World War and later spent one year at Canada's Radiation Lab and two years teaching physics at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

He joined Bell Labs in New Jersey in 1953.

"There were many times when we stayed up late in the lab ... nine o'clock, 10 o'clock at night," he recalled. "We might have had a beer at the end. That was it."

He co-invented a type of laser, worked on the Apollo space program, and in 1969 helped develop an image sensor, later hailed as a scientific breakthrough.

The charge-coupled device or CCD, developed with the help of American scientist George Smith, transforms light into a large number of digitized image points, or pixels, in a split second.

Today, the device is used in most digital cameras and camcorders, including the tiny, delicate ones found in operating rooms and the heavy-duty versions inside massive telescopes.

The stunning deep-space images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars Rovers came from CCDs.

"Digital cameras are big and everyone has one," Boyle said Tuesday. "It's having a tremendous effect on how we live and how we do things."

He said the CCD enabled people to handle light in the same way the transistor allowed them to handle sound.

"That's something you couldn't do with plain film," he said. "Before that, with good old Kodak films, you had to wind them up, put them in the baths and all the rest of it."

In its citation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said: "CCD technology makes use of the photoelectric effect, as theorized by Albert Einstein and for which he was awarded the 1921 year's Nobel Prize."

The academy said the CCD "revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film."

But Boyle, who retired in 1979 and spends most of his time at his cottage in Wallace, N.S., remains humble about his accomplishment.

"These things come and go," he said, adding that he still enjoys dabbling in digital photography.

"It's like lady's fashions. Everybody's all excited about a certain technology ... and in a few years, a lot of the stuff we have today will be superseded in some way or other."

Boyle said he knew the Nobel Prize was about to be awarded but thought it was taking too long and he had written off any chance of winning.

"You know how it feels when the phone rings at 5 a.m.," said Betty, his wife of 62 years. "You think emergency or wrong number."

Boyle, who was born in Amherst, N.S., was incredulous when he heard a woman with a Swedish accent tell him he had won.

"I thought, 'Oh, God. Not that same old joke ... And then in the sweetest voice she said, 'I'm in Stockholm and I want to tell you about the Nobel Prize.' "

The award's US$1.4-million purse will be split between the three men who shared the prize Tuesday.

Boyle and Smith will get US$350,000 each. American scientist Charles K. Kao gets US$700,000 for his breakthrough involving the transmission of light in fibre optics.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Boyle and his colleagues on receiving the Nobel Prize in physics, calling it "a remarkable accomplishment."

"Thanks to the work of Dr. Boyle, people in Canada and around the world benefit in their everyday lives and the boundaries of science have been expanded," Harper said in a statement.

The prize ceremonies will be held in Stockholm on Dec. 10, and Boyle plans to attend.

Boyle is the second graduate of McGill to receive a Nobel Prize this week.

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