by Christina Yeager
Willard Boyle is known as the 'Father of the Digital Eye' and 'a pioneer in Physics' in reference to the early innovation of lasers with the mutual help of a few co-workers. He was raised in northern Canada where local schools were not close to rural residents. His mother homeschooled him.
Dr. Boyle’s prolific scientific career included inventing the first laser to be used in medicine and helping to select sites on the moon for NASA’s manned landings. And that was just early use! Many, many other inventions were developed using his technology.
Willard was born on Aug. 19, 1924, in Amherst, Nova Scotia. When he was three, his family moved to a logging community in northern Quebec.
His father was a medical doctor and had decided to set up a practice where the family got around by dog sled. The nearest school 30 miles away, therefore, Willard's mother homeschooled him. He was homeschooled until age fourteen.
For high school, Mr. Boyle's parents sent him to a private school in Montreal.
After high school graduation, Willard voluntarily joined the Royal Canadian Navy to later become a Spitfire pilot. He managed to obtain bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from McGill University in Montreal afterward. After teaching at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario for a considerable while, he moved on to join the research staff at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J.
Dr. Boyle and his co-worker, Don Nelson, sufficiently developed the first ruby laser to emit a continuous beam of light. Along with another esteemed colleague, David Thomas, they were given a patent that helped lead to the development of the semiconductor injection laser, which is found in many electronic appliances. In 1969, Boyle and George E. Smith invented the charge-coupled device or also known as the CCD.
The portable device, smaller than a dime, has become ubiquitous. It is the brilliant eye behind every charming picture on the Internet, every digital and video camera, every computer scanner, copier machine, and high-definition television.
Its work extends from supermarket barcode readers to the Hubble Space Telescope, from fax machines to the sophisticated cameras that roamed Mars and the oceans’ floor.
Boyle served as the Executive Director of Research for Bell Labs from 1975 until his retirement in 1979.
Dr. Willard S. Boyle's remarkable accomplishments are massive and the modern world would not be same if they didn't exist! Here are a few outstanding achievements that Dr, Boyle and his colleagues pulled in for their inventions:
After receiving the Nobel, Dr. Boyle summarized his exceptional achievement at a news conference: “We are the ones who started this profusion of little cameras all over the world.”
Unfortunately, Nobel Prize awarded Dr. Willard S. Boyle died in Nova Scotia on May 7, 2011. However, his legacy lives on in his work for helping to develop a device that is at the heart of virtually every camcorder, digital camera, and telescope in use. He was eighty-six years old at the time of his death.