Birthday: June 5, 1900
Died At Age: 78
Sun Sign: Gemini
Born in: Budapest
Famous as: Father of Holography
Died on: February 8, 1979
place of death: London
City: Budapest, Hungary
Notable Alumni: University Of Technology
education: Technical University of Berlin, Budapest University of Technology and Economics
awards: 1971 - Nobel Prize in Physics
1970 - IEEE Medal of Honor
1968 - Rumford Medal
1967 - Young Medal and Prize
Dennis Gabor was a Hungarian-born British electrical engineer and physicist, best known for inventing holography. He received the prestigious 1971 Nobel Prize in Physics, 1971 “for his invention and development of the holographic method”. He started his career as a research engineer for the firm ‘Siemens & Halske AG’ in Berlin but within a few years had to escape Nazi Germany because of his Jewish ancestry. He reached England where he joined the Thomson-Houston Company in Rugby and later became a British citizen. In 1947, he conjured up the concept of holography and by using conventional filtered-light sources, developed the basic technique. In 1949, he became a faculty member of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London and within a couple of years, became a professor of Applied Electron Physics. His other notable work included research on physical optics, communication theory, high-speed oscilloscopes, and television. Apart from winning the Nobel Prize, he received more than 100 patents for his work. His most celebrated work remains the holography, which became commercially feasible after the advent of the laser in 1960. He is fondly referred to as the ‘Father of Holography’.
Childhood & Early Life
Dennis Gabor was born on 5 June 1900, in Budapest, Hungary. He was the oldest son of Günszberg Bernát and Jakobovits Adél. In 1902, the family changed their surname from Günszberg to Gábor.
His family was originally Jewish but in 1918, they converted to Lutheranism. Meanwhile, during World War I, he served with the Hungarian artillery in northern Italy.
After the war ended in 1918, he decided to study engineering. However, physics had always been his favourite subject. He began Electrical Engineering studies in Budapest, and later finished at the Technical Hochschule Berlin-Charlottenburg. He obtained a Diploma, in 1924.
He also received the doctorate degree in Engineering in 1927, submitting a thesis on the development of one of the first high speed cathode ray oscillographs.
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At the beginning of his career, he developed an interest in electron optics and examined the properties of high voltage electric transmission lines, by using cathode-beam oscillographs. He gradually analysed other electron-beam devices such as electron microscopes and TV tubes.
In 1927, he wrote his doctoral thesis on ‘Recording of Transients in Electric Circuits with the Cathode Ray Oscillograph’ and worked on plasma lamps.
In 1933, he had to leave Germany because of his Jewish lineage. After a brief stay in Hungary, he reached England where he was invited to work at the Thomson-Houston company in Rugby, Warwickshire. He eventually became a British citizen in 1946.
In 1947, he invented holography by using a conventional filtered-light source. However, since conventional light sources usually offered either too less light or too diffused light, holography could not be used commercially until the advent of the laser in 1960.
His studies further explored the inputs and outputs of electrons, which led him to invent re-holography. He published the related theories in a series of papers between 1946 and 1951.
After a while, he also investigated the mechanism of communication among human beings and developed the theory of granular synthesis which later became the foundation of time-frequency analysis.
In 1948, he became a faculty member of Imperial College London. Ten years later, he was made a professor of Applied Electron Physics and continued in the position till his retirement in 1967.
In 1963, he published the book ‘Inventing the Future’ which talked about the three main dangers he saw, to modern society: war, overpopulation and the Age of Leisure. His next book, ‘Innovations: scientific, technological, and social’ was published in 1970, and revealed his interest in technological innovation as a means to both liberation and destruction.
In 1971, he received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics “for his invention and development of the holographic method”. In his Nobel lecture, he presented the history of the development of holography from 1948.
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Post retirement, he spent much of his time in Italy. He continued to be associated with Imperial College London as a Senior Research Fellow and also became a Staff Scientist at CBS Laboratories, in Stamford, Connecticut.
His interest in social analysis saw him publish ‘The Mature Society: a view of the future’ in 1972. He also supervised a working group in the Club of Rome studying energy sources and technical change. The findings were published in the 1978 report ‘Beyond the Age of Waste’.
Although by profession Dennis Gabor was an electrical engineer, he worked mostly in applied physics. In 1927, he made his first successful invention; the high pressure quartz mercury lamp, which thereafter has been used in millions of street lamps.
In 1947, he experimented with the idea of holography and by using conventional filtered-light sources, developed the basic technique.
His other work included research on high-speed oscilloscopes, communication theory, physical optics, and television. He received more than 100 patents during his lifetime.
Awards & Achievements
The advent of lasers enabled the practical application of holography and Gabor found worldwide recognition and success. He won several awards and honours during his lifetime.
In 1956, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). In 1964, he became Honorary Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and got a D.Sc. degree from the University of London.
In 1967, he won the Young Medal and Prize, for distinguished studies in the field of optics, as well as, the Columbus Award of the International Institute for Communications, Genoa.
In 1968, he won the first Albert A. Michelson Medal from The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, followed by the Rumford Medal from the Royal Society.
In 1970, he got an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Southampton, won the Medal of Honour from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and received the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).
In 1971, he won the famed Nobel Prize in Physics, for his invention and development of holography. The same year, he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Delft University of Technology. The next year, he won the Holweck Prize of the Société Française de Physique.
The NOVOFER Foundation of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences presents the International Dennis Gabor Award every year to outstanding young scientists researching in the fields of physics and applied technology.
The Royal Society of London awards The Gabor Medal for “acknowledged distinction of interdisciplinary work between the life sciences and other disciplines”.
Personal Life & Legacy
Dennis Gabor met his future wife, Marjorie Louise Butler. when he was in Rugby, Warwickshire. The couple married in 1936.
He died in South Kensington, London, on 9 February 1979.