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Is it the Nobel thing to do? - David Wardell

Three cheers and congratulations to the inventors of the Blue LED light. Isamu Akasaki (Japan), Hiroshi Amano (USA) and Shuji Nakamura (Japan) have won the coveted prize for physics. Developed in the 1990's, the invention of the Blue LED was absolutely crucial because it is the essential missing-link, between existing Red and Green LED's, to enable low cost and efficient White light.

However, this award is not without controversy. Seeing red (if you'll excuse the pun) is Professor Nick Holonyak (USA) who first came up with the Red LED way back in 1962. For many years widely tipped for a Nobel Prize himself, Prof. Holonyak has said that Blue LED would never have happened without the work he, and others, did - "The LED as you know it today comes from us. Hell, I'm an old guy now, but I find this one insulting."

Professor Nick Holonyak.png

Hang on a minute, thinks I, as 99.9% of invention is 'incremental improvement of work that has gone before', it's almost impossible to do new work without treading on somebody's toes. In this case, what about Edison (or Swan, Sawyer, Mann, Wallace et al)? They all demonstrated electric light - a different technology I know, but the seeds were sown. Even the indisputable genius that was Sir Isaac Newton acknowledged that he was "Standing on the shoulders of giants." I wonder what the prolific inventor Alfred Nobel would have made of it all.

All things aside, Messrs. Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano, Shuji Nakamura and Prof. Holonyak should all be proud. Their inventions, combined, have had a profound, beneficial impact on all of humankind. What more could you ask for?

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