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article image2009 Nobel award to Canadian physicist Willard Boyle disputed

By Stephanie Dearing     Dec 22, 2009 in Science
In the 1960s there were four men who worked together at Bell Labs in New Jersey: Willard Boyle, George Smith, Eugene Gordon and Mike Tompsett. In 2009, Smith and Boyle were awarded the Nobel prize.
Halifax, N.S. - But days after the award ceremony, former colleagues, Gordon and Tompsett are publicly claiming that the Nobel should have gone to Tompsett, because his name is on the patents for the imaging device that won Smith and Boyle the Nobel.
At the time of the announcement of the award, there was a buzz about why the Nobel committee had waited so long to award this prize. Sharing the prize with Charles Kao for his creation of fiber optics, Boyle and Smith were lauded for their creation of "... the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor, a CCD (Charge-Coupled Device). The CCD technology makes use of the photoelectric effect, as theorized by Albert Einstein and for which he was awarded the 1921 year's Nobel Prize. By this effect, light is transformed into electric signals. The challenge when designing an image sensor was to gather and read out the signals in a large number of image points, pixels, in a short time.
The CCD is the digital camera's electronic eye. It revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film. The digital form facilitates the processing and distribution of these images. CCD technology is also used in many medical applications, e.g. imaging the inside of the human body, both for diagnostics and for microsurgery.
Digital photography has become an irreplaceable tool in many fields of research."
Smith and Boyle split the $1.4 million dollar prize with Kao.
79 year old Eugene Gordon said that Tompsett's patent was for the CCD, and that Smith and Boyle had patented a charge-coupled device shift register, which had nothing to do with imaging.
Gordon has taken his allegations public after attempts to convey his concerns to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences went unanswered. Gordon said Boyle and Smith "They wouldn't know an imaging device if it stared them in the face."
Boyle, now 85, was reached by press at his home in Halifax. He said "I can clearly remember the day that George (Smith) and I developed the concept for the CCD. It's pretty firm in my mind. I've documentation that disproves most of what they are saying and the rest of what they are saying is not at all logical." Smith, for his part, called his former colleagues "liars."
Disputes over who is awarded the Nobel are not unknown, and patents have played a role in determining who is deserving to be awarded the Nobel.
More about Willard boyle, George smith, Nobel prize, Bell labs, Royal swedish academy sciences
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