Magnus George Craford was raised in Iowa, where he would later receive his B.A. degree in 1961. He went on to earn MS and Ph.D. in Physics in 1963 and 1967 from the University of Illinois. There, he worked with Nick Holonyak, Jr.
In 1967, he began working at Monsanto Chemical Company and became the leader of the LED technology group. In this position, he led the development of new GaAsP:N LED technology, which became the dominant technology for many years. In 1974, he became the Director of Technology at Monsanto where he stayed until the company sold their LED business in 1979. He then worked at Hewlett Packard as a Technology Manager for the Optoelectronic Division. There, he led the development of a new LED technology in 1990.
In 1999, Craford became the Chief Technology Officer of Lumileds Lighting, where the first high power white LEDs were developed. The company would later become Philips Lumileds Lighting Company and remains an industry leader.
Currently, Craford is the Solid State Lighting Fellow at Philips Lumileds Lighting Company.
He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and IEEE. He has been awarded numerous awards, including the National Medal of Technology, the University of Illinois Alumni Distinguished Service Award, the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Award, the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors Welker Award, the Materials Research Society MRS medal, the Electrochemical Society Electronic Division Award, the Economist Innovation Award, the Strategies in Light LED Pioneer Award, and the International SSL Alliance Global Solid State Lighting Development Award. He was the first winner of OSA’s Nick Holonyak, Jr. Award in 1998 “for his pioneering contributions and leadership in the research and development of visible-wavelength light-emitting-diode (LED) materials and devices, including the first yellow LED and high-brightness, red-orange-yellow InAlGaP LEDs that exceed in performance the incandescent lamp.”