Thursday, March 03, 2011

Digital Imaging Pioneers Among The National Inventors Hall of Fame 2011 Inductees

PR Newswire: The National Inventors Hall of Fame has announced its 2011 Inductees. Digital imaging is well represented among the seven living inductees:

Eric Fossum

"CMOS Active Pixel Image Sensor - Eric Fossum, now at Dartmouth College, led the team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that created the CMOS active pixel sensor camera-on-a-chip. Today, CMOS image sensors are a fixture in camera phones, and other applications include digital SLR cameras, embedded web-cams, automotive safety systems, swallowable pill cameras, toys and video games, and wireless video-security networks. Worldwide annual revenue for the technology is estimated to reach $6 billion in 2011."

Steve Sasson

"Digital Camera - In 1975, Kodak engineer Steve Sasson created a device that captured an image, converted it to an electronic signal, digitized the signal, and stored the image—the first digital camera. In 2008, 73% of Americans owned a digital camera and 34 million digital cameras were sold in the U.S., generating $7 billion in revenue. Virtually all of today's digital cameras rely on the same structure invented in 1975."

N. Joseph Woodland, Bernard Silver (1935-1963)

"First Optically Scanned Bar Code – Joe Woodland and Bernard Silver (deceased) invented the first optically scanned barcode, prompted in their work in 1948 after Silver overheard a food chain executive discussing his wish to capture product information at checkout. Today, the barcode has many applications, including tracking shipped packages, patient identification in hospitals, gift registries, and floor control in warehouses. It is estimated that five billion scans take place daily worldwide."

The induction ceremony will take place on May 4 at the historic Patent Office Building, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, D.C.


  1. congrats dr. fossum. it's an honor to read your thoughts.


  2. kudos to all and thanks for letting us born and brought up in imaging world, we have all our memories captured in your inventions :)

  3. Congratulations!

    Wonder why Gareth Lloyd (deceased) isn't included for the digital camera, as his name is also on the patent?

  4. I have also wondered why Gareth Lloyd, co-inventor of the digital camera, was not also inducted into the hall of fame for his and Steve Sasson's invention, as has my family. I suspect it's because he left Kodak in the early nineties for a second career as a family therapist and because he died before much of the hype about the camera gained momentum. The world of course likes to simplify history; the camera was a team project. Bonnie lloyd, Gareth's wife

  5. "a device that captured an image, converted it to an electronic signal, digitized the signal, and stored the image—the first digital camera"

    With all due respect, I think that crediting either Sasson or Lloyd with inventing "the first digital camera" is an exercise in creative public relations. The elements in the citation excerpt are surely also in the much earlier work from Woodland and Silver, and NASA had digital cameras in the field at least as early as 1965 on the Mariner 4 spacecraft.

    What Sasson and Lloyd appear to have done was to incorporate components available at the time they were working into a complete system that was small enough and light enough for one person to hold while taking a picture. For me, that is the achievement that should be recognized.

  6. After a bit more due diligence, I should amend my comment from "What Sasson and Lloyd appear to have done" to "What Sasson and his team appear to have done". It seems clear to me that Sasson was heavily involved in conceptualization, design, and fabrication of the prototype, with assistance at least on the fabrication side. Lloyd's contribution isn't immediately clear to me.

  7. @Bonnie Lloyd - I suspect that KODAK PR was behind Steve's recognition for both the NMT and the followup induction into NIHF, thus indirectly shining some spotlight on Kodak. So, if that is true, then I agree with your comment about Gareth (who I never met) leaving Kodak and then being out of sight and hence out of mind.
    As far as NIHF goes, they cite just a single exemplary invention for the inductees but their intent is to honor a longer period of invention and innovation. I have no insight as to why Gareth was not included.
    The few times I have had the pleasure to meet and interact with Steve Sasson, I can say that he has always referred to the camera development in the plural.
    CDM is correct in that JPL, TI, and others had "digital cameras" demonstrated of some sort or the other prior to the Kodak camera. But, I think there was a sort of self-containment and all-digital test for the Kodak camera that the other previous efforts did not fully satisfy.
    I heard that NIHF, in conjunction with USPTO, does extensive vetting of the nominees prior to making selection.
    Apparently this is not the case with the Nobel committee who miscited the important contributions of Smith and Boyle and ascribed the image sensor to them rather than just the CCD itself.


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