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Nick Holonyak Jr.

Photo of Nick Holonyak Jr.
Awards & Distinctions

A member of the electrical engineering and physics faculties since 1963 and the John Bardeen Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics since 1993, Nick Holonyak Jr. is internationally recognized for major contributions to elemental and compound semiconductors, including semiconductor lasers and incoherent light emitters. He was the first to make electron devices using III-V semiconductor alloys and to demonstrate quantum-well heterostructure lasers, now used in compact disc players and fiber-optic cables. He was the first to demonstrate stable native oxides on aluminum-bearing III-V compounds, now the basis for vertical-cavity surface-¬emitting lasers. Earlier, he and his students introduced impurity-induced disordering (intermixing) of quantum-well heterostructures.

Holonyak previously worked for Bell Telephone Labs and for General Electric, where he invented the first practical light-emitting diode (LED), alloy semiconductor lasers, and the technology used in household light dimmers. He received all his degrees from Illinois; his doctoral adviser was two-time Nobel laureate John Bardeen.

His work has resulted in more than 500 journal papers and 34 patents. Holonyak is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences. He is one of only 13 Americans to have won both the National Medal of Science (1990) and the National Medal of Technology (2002). In 2004, he won the Lemelson-MIT Prize-the world's largest single cash prize for invention.

His other awards include Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois, 2005; Global Energy Prize from Russia, 2003; IEEE Medal of Honor, 2003; The Optical Society’s highest award, the Frederic Ives Medal, 2001; Japan Prize, 1995; National Academy of Sciences' Award for the Industrial Application of Science, 1993; and Charles Hard Townes Award, 1992. He is a Fellow and Honorary Member of The Optical Society, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society and the IEEE, and he is a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Eight of his 60 doctoral students are members of the National Academy of Engineering.

Nick Holonyak Jr. died on 18 September 2022, please see Optica's memorial entry.

It is electromagnetism (EM) in all its many forms that has been so basic, that haunts us and guides us.

Document Created: 26 Jul 2023
Last Updated: 28 Aug 2023

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