For the invention of the Charge-Coupled Device (CCD), a light-sensitive component at the heart of digital cameras and other widely used imaging technologies.
Willard S. Boyle was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, in 1924, and spent most of his childhood in rural Quebec, homeschooled by his mother. He attended McGill University—completing a doctorate in physics in 1950. In 1953, following two years as an assistant professor at the Royal Military College, he joined the research staff of Bell Laboratories, where he became executive director of Device Development and then executive director of the Communication Science Division until his retirement in 1979.
Boyle is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the IEEE and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Dalhousie University.
Since his retirement, Dr. Boyle has served on the Research Council of the Canadian Institute of Advanced Research and the Science Council of the Province of Nova Scotia.
George E. Smith was born in White Plains, New York, in 1930. He received a B.A. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago. In 1959, following graduation, he joined Bell Laboratories. In 1964, he became head of the Device Concepts Department, a group formed to devise next-generation solid-state devices—eventually including the CCD. He retired from Bell Laboratories in 1986 as head of the VLSI Device Department.
Smith is a member of Pi Mu Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi and a fellow of IEEE and American Physical Society and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He holds 31 U.S. patents and is the author of more than 40 papers.
Boyle and Smith hold the basic patent (US 3,858,232)for the CCD and published the first paper disclosing the device concept, accompanied by a paper on its experimental verification, in 1970. For their accomplishments, they were awarded the Stuart Ballentine Medal of the Franklin Institute (1973); Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award of IEEE (1974); Progress Medal of the Photographic Society of America (1986); IEEE Device Research Conference Breakthrough Award (1999); Edwin H. Land Medal by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (2001); and the C&C Prize (Computer and Communications) of the NEC Foundation, Tokyo (1999).
The charge-coupled device, or CCD, was the first practical technology for capturing light electronically and turning it into a digital image. In a CCD, light hits a layer of photosensitive silicon, which responds by letting out a corresponding burst of electrons. Although this ability of silicon has been known for a long time (it is also the basis for solar cell technology), the CCD was the first technology that could gather the electrons so that the original pattern of light – the image – could be reconstructed. In doing so, it opened the door to an entire field of digital cameras, video recorders, and other devices. Although other similar technologies have since emerged, CCDs still produce the most noise-free images.