Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Liquid Crystal Display
(Dynamic Scattering Method)
Liquid crystal pioneer George H. Heilmeier was born in
1936 in Philadelphia. He earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering
from the University of Pennsylvania and then moved on to Princeton
where he earned M.A., M.S.E. and Ph.D. degrees in solid-state
electronics. Soon after graduation he joined RCA Laboratories,
where his work on various electronic and electro-optic devices
lead to his promotion to Head of Solid State Device Research
Heilmeier was working at RCA's David Sarnoff Research Center
in 1963 when he and Richard Williams published a report suggesting
the use of liquid crystal materials for display. Heilmeier
and a lab group including Nunzio Luce, Louis Zanoni, Joel
Goldmacher, Joseph Castellano and Lucian Barton began investigating
the use of liquid crystal displays for a television concept.
The group realized LCD TVs were many years off so they concentrated
on developing the digital time display for clocks and watches.
Some of the team left RCA to form Optel Corporation, which
produced LCD watches for several watch companies and later
marketed LCD watches under its own name.
Heilmeier's liquid crystal displays used DSM or dynamic
scattering method, wherein an electrical charge is applied
which rearranges the molecules so that they scatter light.
These were replaced by an improved version, which used the
twisted nematic field effect of liquid crystals invented by
James Fergason in 1969 and introduced to the market in 1971;
Heilmeier is credited with setting the ball in motion for
LCDs' use in calculators, watches, computers and other instruments.
In 1968, he was recognized by RCA with its prestigious David
In 1970, Heilmeier was chosen as a White House Fellow to
work on research, planning and technology assessment for the
Secretary of Defense. The following year he was named Assistant
Director of Defense Research & Engineering in charge of all
Department of Defense programs in electronics, computer technology
and physical sciences. In 1975, he became Director of the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where he
managed projects including stealth aircraft, lasers and artificial
intelligence. While working for DARPA he was twice awarded
the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Medal
the highest civilian award given by the department.
Heilmeier left DARPA in 1977 to join Texas Instruments.
There he managed research and development projects in petroleum
exploration, systems technology, microelectronics, and software.
He was appointed Vice President of Corporate Research, Development,
Engineering and Strategic Planning in 1978 and was named Senior
Vice President and Chief Technical Officer in 1983.
In 1991, Heilmeier was elected president and CEO of Bellcore,
formerly Bell Communications Research, a research and engineering
consortium owned by the seven regional Bell operating companies.
Recently he has focused on coordinating efforts to develop
a national information infrastructure he says would bring
interactive media into users' homes by linking telephones,
computers, and television to produce video, sound, and data.
Over the course of his career Heilmeier earned 15 patents
and received numerous awards, including the National Academy
of Engineering Founders Award (1991); the National Medal of
Science (by President Bush in 1991); the John Scott Award
for Scientific Achievements from the City of Philadelphia
(1996); the IEEE Medal of Honor (1997); and the John Fritz
Additionally, Heilmeier is a member of the Defense Science
Board, the National Security Agency Scientific Advisory Board,
and the Board of Directors of companies including TRW, the
MITRE Corporation, Compaq Computer Corporation, INET Inc.,
Teletech Holdings, and Automatic Data Processing (ADP) Corp.
He is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering,
a Fellow of the IEEE and of the American Academy of Arts and