Back to Inductee Search

John Joseph Lynott

Magnetic Disk Drive

U.S. Patent No. 3,503,060
Inducted in 2007
Born Aug. 25, 1921 - Died April 20, 1994
Military Service: U.S. Navy

John Lynott and William Goddard, together with Louis Stevens and a team of engineers, invented a unique magnetic disk storage device at the IBM Lab in San Jose in the 1950s. The magnetic disk drive replaced data stored on punch cards and magnetic tape with almost instant, direct access storage and retrieval.

The magnetic disk drive consisted of a stack of closely spaced, magnetically-coated disks mounted on a rotating shaft, with read-write heads which did not physically touch the storage surface. Lynott and Goddard's key contribution was the air-bearing head, which "floated" very close to the rotating disks without actually touching, greatly increasing the speed of access. The invention validated IBM lab director Reynold Johnson's vision that disk storage could be made practical, provided quick, efficient access to large amounts of data, and ushered in a new era of interactive computer applications, such as airline reservation systems and personal computing. Today's magnetic disks are dramatically smaller and faster than the original, but many key features of Lynott and Goddard's team's design are still found in modern disk drives.

Born in Johnson City, New York, Lynott attended Syracuse University. He earned 25 patents for his work in mass-data storage during his 27-year career at IBM.

Related Inductees