The Nobel Prize and Its Discontents

Some imaging pioneers have a problem with the Nobel committee

4 min read
The Nobel Prize and Its Discontents

The Nobel Prize is the peak honor in physics. Yet this year it celebrated not science, but technology: "the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit—the CCD sensor." The winners were two IEEE Fellows from Bell Telephone Laboratories, Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith.

Two other IEEE Fellows and former Bell Labs colleagues, Michael F. Tompsett and Eugene I. Gordon, say the Nobel committee has made a mistake. Their complaints reveal a lot about how inventions happen and how credit for them is given. At the heart of their complaints is that the Nobel Prize winners had little to do with the charge-coupled device's use in imaging—the reason it became so important to astronomy and consumer electronics.

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