Nick Holonyak invented the first visible light-emitting diodes (LEDs), today commonly found in applications ranging from traffic lights to consumer electronics.
Holonyak's research in optoelectronics has revolutionized the lighting, communications, and entertainment industries. His work is responsible for the technology used to develop red lasers in CD and DVD players, the ability to transmit information over the Internet, and applications in replacing conventional lighting with LEDs. Holonyak also created the basic electronic element of household light dimmer switches.
Born in Zeigler, Illinois, Holonyak attended the University of Illinois where he studied under his mentor NIHF Inductee John Bardeen who was a two-time Nobel Prize winner for inventing the transistor and explaining superconductivity. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering as Bardeen's first advanced student and went on to work for Bell Laboratories, serve in the military, and join the Advanced Semiconductor Laboratory of the General Electric Co. in 1957 where he made key contributions to the field of advanced semiconductor devices.
In 1963, Holonyak joined the University of Illinois faculty. Through his professional career, Holonyak has received numerous awards, and he is one of a handful of Americans to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology.