New Jersey’s Nobel Prize in Physics

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics was shared by Charles Kuo for the fiberoptics and Willard Boyle and George Smith of New Jersey’s Bell Labs for “the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor”  or “Charge-Coupled Device.”  

Just about every photo we’ve posted at Blue Jersey has used a CCD camera, for  they are now widely available as the heart of the “digital camera.” CCD’s are also widely used in scientific research, particularly astronomy, as Governor Corzine noted:

“The ingenuity and tenacity of the New Jersey spirit certainly shines through with Willard Boyle and George Smith receiving the Nobel Prize for physics. While their work has forever changed the world by making digital photography possible, it is noteworthy that their work builds on Albert Einstein’s discovery of the photoelectric effect – another New Jerseyan who won the Nobel Prize in 1921.

“This technology has revolutionized our knowledge of the universe, by making images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the surface of Mars possible. Their work will expand the bounds of science, medical technology, even the arts, for generations.

“I extend my sincere congratulations to Mr. Boyle and Mr. Smith for this high honor, and for showcasing New Jersey as the home of technology and innovation. As we continue to invest in the knowledge-based industries of the future, I look forward to many more honors coming to the Garden State.”

In honor of the Nobel Prize winners, I’d like to point you to this stunning photo of the Galaxy Cluster Abell 1689, which is a combination of different CCD images. The yellow galaxies are from a CCD image taken with Hubble Space Telescope.  You may notice a kind of stretching of the fainter galaxies to make arcs — this is due to the warping of space-time as predicted by Einstein, but as he never won a Nobel Prize for General Relativity we’ll stop there. But this image represents both “the visible and the invisible” as the phrase goes. CCD’s can also detect X-Rays — invisible to the human eye — and the purple encodes a CCD image taken with Chandra X-Ray Observatory.  This “purple” light reveals the existence of gas that is hundreds of millions of degrees filling what Hubble perceived as empty space.

Abell 1689

Senator Bob Menendez’s congratulatory statement in the Congressional Record is below the fold.

Mr. President, I rise to extend my deepest congratulations to Drs. Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith – two New Jersey scientists who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, an incredible honor for extraordinary ingenuity in their chosen field and fitting recognition for their outstanding achievement.

They have expanded the boundaries of science, inventing something most of us do not understand, but which has made a difference in our lives. The invention of the charged-coupled device, or CCD, now found in digital cameras used around the world and by NASA on the ground-breaking Hubble Telescope, revolutionized how we take photographs and manipulate and transfer images. It has given us insight into the deepest reaches of space, allowed us to see remarkable images that have made us better understand the vastness and magnificence of the universe, and better appreciate the simple images in our family photographs.

Dr. Boyle and Dr. Smith have done their work at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey and now have enriched our state’s proud tradition of  scientific breakthrough and innovation. We can add their names to those of Albert Einstein, who made Princeton his base, and Thomas Edison, who from his Garden State lab invented the incandescent light bulb that lit the world. The names of Boyle and Smith will now loom large in the scientific history of our state. They have made New Jersey and the United States very proud.

Their contribution to science is in their remarkable discovery, but their legacy to mankind is in their pioneering spirit, their ingenuity, and their quest to look further, think harder, and discover what no one else could.

I join with my colleagues and with every American in thanking them for making our lives better and wish them the very best as they continue careers that brought them to this place, having earned a Nobel Prize almost forty years to the day after they began their long scientific journey.

To Dr. Boyle and Dr. Smith, we offer the best wishes of a grateful nation.


Comment (1)

  1. Rosi Efthim

    This is very cool. I get a charge out of physicists. I’ve never met a more fiercely curious and adventuresome class of people than the physicists I’ve known. One of course, is my old boss, Rep. Rush Holt, who in the darkest point in Republican domination of American policy during the Bush years, said he wanted a Congress that made decisions on evidence rather than ideology.

    Rush Holt used to draw, from Princeton U. and environs, such a wild bunch of campaign volunteers. Around our volunteer table some days, we had astrophysicists, plasma physicists (all of whom could explain plasma way better than me, science writers, Nobel short-listers, mathematicians, engineers …

    I remember one raucous full-day debate as we got out a huge campaign mailer. Resolved: All physicists are Democrats and all engineers are Republicans. I think I kept out of that one but let me tell you, it was superduper fun to listen in.


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