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Willard Boyle
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Inventor
    (August 19, 1924-May 7, 2011)
    Born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Physicist
    Executive Director of Research at Bell Labs (1975-79)
    Co-inventor with George E. Smith of the charge-coupled device (CCD), which is the basis for digital photography
    Co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics (2009)
    The CCD he and Smith invented was originally intended as a memory circuit instead of as a digital imaging device.
    A fellow Bell Labs scientist, Michael Tompsett, said he was responsible for converting the CCD into a digital imager.
    Eugene Gordon, another Bell Labs scientist who supported Tompsett’s claim, said of Boyle and Smith, ‘They wouldn’t know an imaging device if it stared them in the face.’
    A Bell Labs publicity photo of him and Smith posing with a CCD camera used a camera that had been built by Tompsett.
    His vanity license plate was ‘CCD.’
    Belying the nerdy/wimpy image of scientists, his nickname in secondary school was ‘Butch.’ (It probably helped that he grew up among lumberjacks in Quebec.)
    He served in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air arm as a Spitfire pilot during World War II.
    He was married to Betty Boyle for 65 years.
    He was also co-inventor of the first continuously operating ruby laser (1962).
    He was an advisor to the Apollo program, including helping to select lunar landing sites.

Credit: C. Fishel


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