George E. Smith, Ph.D. was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for co-inventing an imaging semiconductor circuit. The device, which is described as an “electronic eye,” is used in medical equipment, telescopes and digital cameras.
His distinguished career in the sciences spanned across three decades at Bell Laboratories, where he served in multiple high-level capacities. Since his retirement in 1986, Dr. Smith has continued conducting research and advancing the fields of physics and engineering. He holds 31 U.S. patents and is the author of more than 40 papers.
Dr. Smith received a B.A. in physics from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago. In 1959, following graduation, he joined Bell Laboratories, where he initially studied the electrical properties and band structures of semimetals, mostly bismuth and bismuth-antimony alloys; these were mostly microwave-resonance experiments and investigations of a variety of magnetothermoelectric and galvanomagnetic effects.
In 1964, Dr. Smith became head of the Device Concepts Department, a group formed to devise next-generation solid-state devices. In this capacity, he was involved in a variety of investigations on junction lasers, semiconducting ferroelectrics, electroluminescence, transition-metal oxides, the silicon-diode-array camera tube, and charge-coupled devices (CCDs). In April 1986, he retired from Bell Laboratories as head of the VLSI Device Department, where he oversaw work on the physics of devices made with submicron lithography and their use in high-performance digital and analog circuits.
He is a member of Pi Mu Epsilon, Phi Beta Kappa, and Sigma Xi and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and American Physical Society and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Dr. Smith received the IEEE Electron Devices Society Distinguished Service Award in 1997. His major technical accomplishment was the inception, in 1970, of the CCD, with Willard S. Boyle. They hold the basic patent (US 3,858,232) and published the first paper disclosing the device concept, accompanied by a paper on its experimental verification, in 1970. For their accomplishments, they were awarded the Stuart Ballentine Medal of the Franklin Institute (1973); Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award of IEEE (1974); Progress Medal of the Photographic Society of America (1986); IEEE Device Research Conference Breakthrough Award (1999); Edwin H. Land Medal by the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (2001); and the C&C Prize (Computer and Communications) of the NEC Foundation, Tokyo (1999).