Saturday, December 19, 2009

IEEE Spectrum Revisits CCD Nobel Controversion

December issue of IEEE Spectrum revisits the controversial story of CCD invention:

It's easy to see why the Nobel committee went with Boyle and Smith. The CCD is synonymous with its only practical application: imaging. And according to many authoritative sources, Boyle and Smith invented the CCD. But had the Nobel nominators looked one step down the chain of invention, things might have been different.

Carlo Séquin, now a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, says: "If the fundamental concept was the charge-transfer principle, then that goes to Boyle and Smith, and maybe Gene Gordon." If it's the invention of a practical CCD imager, "credit would go to Mike Tompsett, and possibly Gilbert Amelio," he says. (Amelio led commercial CCD development at Fairchild Semiconductor.)


There are also references to Smith, Boyle and Gordon versions of the CCD invention story.

9 comments:

  1. "My initial assumption was the Nobel in physics goes to fundamental concepts," says Séquin, now a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. "If the fundamental concept was the charge-transfer principle, then that goes to Boyle and Smith, and maybe Gene Gordon."

    The Nobel prize in physics does go to fundamental concepts. In my opinion, the correct people won the prize.

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  2. I have to say my opinion of Gene Gordon has plummeted after reading each of the sour-grapes-discourses and mulitple low-brow-discreditations of fellow staff members. Sadly for him, his legacy will be the indelible tirade and public temper tantrums published in this blog and in many high profile archival articles. I can now understand why he was culled from the inventive documentation. With this sort of personality, it is little wonder he was shunned by his colleagues.

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  3. And, I should add, it is telling that he chose not to fight being left off the initial patent thinking he had plenty of other patents to his name, according to his own story. It shows that he also failed to recognize the significance of Boyle and Smith's invention.

    It is one thing to say "hey, look at this shift register for driving a display - let's do something like this" and another to actually come up with the solid-state device concept. Most IP professionals would agree that pointing others in a general direction is not an inventive contribution.

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  4. Amazing that in the whole story nobody refers to the work of Leo Sangster, of Philips Research Labs. He invented the BBD in 1966 and published his work, together with Kees Teer, in 1969. In their publication, they mention the imaging application with a BBD. No doubt that Boyle and Smith were triggered by Leo Sangster's work. Unfortunately Leo Sangster can no longer tell his version of the story because he passed away 8 years ago. After the announcement of the Nobel Prize of Physics, I was contacted by his widow and we had a nice chat about the work of Leo. She was very proud that Leo participated in the solid-state device research that could be seen as a cornerstone towards the Nobel Prize. That is also a way of looking to the Nobel Prize Physics 2009 ....

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  5. There has got to be some truth to Gene Gordon's story. There is nothing wrong in coming forward with the truth. Whether Gordon recognized the significance of the invention or not does not make him more or less of an inventor. There are many creative people that don't know the significance of their work. I doubt that inventive credit would be given to a business man who does see any such significance.

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  6. I am sure there are a lot of truths to Gordon's story. And then there are the ways he has relentlessly attacked Smith and Boyle. Just read his comments to the several IEEE Spectrum on line articles. (But he does give due credit to Sangster, A.T.) It is the attack-dog mentality that caused me to lose respect.

    If anyone should be bitter it should be Mike Tompsett, but compared to Gordon, he has handled the situation much more professionally.

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  7. Gordon had 40 years to "attack" Smith and Boyle and claim the credit. He only did so after they got the Nobel prize. ...A little bit to late I would say.

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  8. Gene Gordon is probably a busy guy and is used to not beating around the bush. He says it how it is. That does not make him less professional. In fact, his career might be considered much more professional that Smith and Boyle. You are professional by what you produce if your profession is producing.

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  9. You are kidding right? The ends justify the means? Well this gets philosophical quickly but for some of us we would be prefer to be judged by how we conduct ourselves along life's journey, not just by what we produce in our profession. But clearly other people have different values.

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