“New York City and you’re flying in an airplane and you see all these lights. And you think lights, lights, lights, lights, lights.”Nick Holonyak
Nick Holonyak Jr.’s mom was an orphan. His dad was a coal miner. After a stint in the mine’s, Nick decided school sounded like a fine idea.
Holonyak was the first graduate student of two-time Nobel Prize winner John Bardeen, inventor of the semiconductor.
Holonyak worked at General Electric in the laser group. Lasers, to that time, were infrared and invisible to the naked eye. In 1962, Holonyak invented a Light Emitting Diode (LED) that emitted a red light, making the laser light visible. To this day, all red lasers are based on Holonyak’s work.
In 1963 Holonyak left GE for academia, joining the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. GE, along with other competitors, built a substantial LED business that still exists. Additionally, other companies went on to use the technology to improve devices from lasers to television and computer screens.
GE build from their own LED light business. However, with the innovation of LED light bulbs that last for decades, their core lighting business is destined for extinction as the need for replacement bulbs is expected to wane. As of 2019, GE has been working for years to sell the light-bulb business that dates back to Edison and launched the business. However, thanks to the longevity of LED lights, they so far failed to find a buyer.
Markedly, Holonyak has no received a Nobel Prize despite that the prize was awarded to the inventor of blue LED’s, a derivative of Holonyak’s work.
“They’re so damn cheap.”Nick Holonyak