Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Jewish Hall Of Fame: Dennis Gabor

This week’s inductee is the Nobel Prize winner who invented the hologram

By: Caitlin Marceau

Published: June 4th, 2014 in Business » World

Since the dawn of time, Jewish people have contributed greatly to various fields, from sports to entertainment to politics to porn. With our Breakthrough Jew feature, we recognize those who are up and comers in these various industries, identifying those great innovators and leaders in the contemporary world who are making a mark on society that will last a lifetime.

With the Jewish Hall of Fame, we recognize the remarkable advancements members of our community have made on today’s society. These are people who have truly changed the world, and have earned the respect and praise of the members of today’s younger generation.

ShalomLife’s Jewish Hall of Fame is our ongoing tribute to the greatest Jews who have ever lived; be sure to catch us weekly with our latest inductees, and tweet us @ShalomLife with your suggestions.

Check out last week’s inductee into the Hall of Fame here.

Hall of Fame Member: Dennis Gabor

Born: June 5, 1900, Budapest, Hungary

Died: February 9, 1979, London, United Kingdom

Dennis Gabor was born on June 5th, 1900, in Budapest, Hungary. He was the oldest son of Bertalan and Adrienne Gabor and began his love for science at the ripe young age of 15. Excited to go to university, he worked through and read as many textbooks as he could get his hands on when it came to physics. He even worked through the largest volume for physics of the time, written by a man named Chwolson. Gabor was enthralled by Abbe’s theory of the microscope which would eventually play an instrumental role in his discovery of holography, although he didn’t know it at the time.

In his application for university, Gabor applied to the engineering department, and was accepted, at the Technische Hochschule Berlin. Although he’d always had a passion for physics he explains in his autobiography, “Physics was not yet a profession in Hungary, with a total of half-a-dozen university chairs – and who could have been presumptuous enough to aspire to one of these?”

He received his diploma in 1924, then one in 1927 for electrical engineering. He enjoyed frequenting the University of Berlin where great minds were beginning to crack the mystery of physics, including one of the greatest minds of our time, Albert Einstein.

Although Gabor would always be an electrical engineer by profession, the majority of his works dealt with the realm of pure and applied physics.

As part of his doctorate work, Gabor developed one of the first high speed cathode ray oscillographs and subsequently produced the first iron-shrouded magnetic electron lens. He also made the first high pressured quartz mercury lamp with superheated vapor and molybdenum tape, according to his autobiography. He also writes, “This was also my first exercise in serendipity… because I was not after a mercury lamp but after a cadmium lamp, and that was not a success.”

Gabor left Hungary in 1933, due to Hitler’s reign, and moved to England. Although the country was still in the midst of a depression and jobs were scarce, Gabor found employment with Thomson-Houston Co., Rugby. He worked on an inventor’s contract and while the work was difficult and wasn’t as successful as he hoped, he got his foot in the door of the company and remained with them until 1948.

That same year Gabor began his first experiments in holography. “This again was an exercise in serendipity,” he wrote. “The original objective was an improved electron microscope, capable of resolving atomic lattices and seeing single atoms.”

For three years, between 1950-1953, Gabor worked with the AEI Research Laboratory. Unfortunately, electron holography wouldn’t be possible for another twenty years; however optical holography became possible and mass produced upon the invention of the laser.

In 1949, Gabor moved to London and became a professor of applied electron physics at the Imperial College of Science & Technology. While there he taught classes as well as further scientific research in the field of electron physics, which included making a holographic microscope and a new type of thermionic converter, amongst other things.

He retired from teaching in 1967, but kept ties with the university, being named as a Senior Research Fellow. He was also granted the title of Staff Scientist at CBS Laboratories.

However, in his later years, Gabor became dedicated to industrial civilization and the rift between societal improvement and scientific advances. As he put it, “a serious mismatch has developed between technology and our social institutions, and that inventive minds ought to consider social inventions as their first priority.” Gabor also wrote three books between 1963 and 1972, outlining his concerns about societal advancements.

In 1971, Gabor received the Nobel Prize in Physics, for his invention and development of the holographic method.

Dennis Gabor died on February 8th, 1979. Since his death, three awards have been named after him, including the International Society for Optical Engineering’s Dennis Gabor Award, which they present annually, the International Dennis Gabor Award (presented by the NOVOFER Foundation of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) and the Gabor Medal, awarded by the Royal Society of London for “acknowledged distinction of interdisciplinary work between the life sciences with other disciplines”.

On what would have been his 110th birthday, Google drew their logo as a hologram in tribute.

For his advancements in physics, most notably in holography, it’s no wonder Dennis Gabor is this week’s inductee into the Jewish Hall of Fame.

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