Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Stephen A. Benton, Allen Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and head of the university's Spatial Imaging Group,
is known as a living legend in the field of modern holography, having authored
a variety of articles, been awarded a number of patents and contributed significant
research to the field.
Born in San Francisco in 1941, Benton graduated as an electrical engineer
from MIT in 1963. At MIT he worked with
Professor Harold Edgerton in his famous "Strobe Lab." He earned a doctoral
degree in applied physics at Harvard five
years later, staying there as an assistant professor of optical physics until
While at Harvard, Benton's first great invention was his 1968 creation of
the "White Light Transmission Rainbow" hologram, which is also called "Benton
Hologram." The holograms, which are often seen on magazine covers and credit
cards, use a technique that sacrifices the vertical parallax of the image in
favor of a Rainbow spectral coloration that is projected into the viewer's visual
As a student Benton became involved with the Polaroid Corporation research
laboratory, where he later was named chief researcher. Benton became affiliated
with MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies
in 1977, when he joined the team of artists, scientists and engineers who collaborated
with former CAVS director Otto Piene on the Centerbeam project, a large-scale
steam laser, laser, and optical project.
In 1982, Benton joined the faculty at MIT
to become a founding member of the Media Laboratory, and to establish a teaching
and research program in high-quality three-dimensional imaging applied to the
human/computer interface. More recently, he and his students have been working
on creating the world's first holographic video system.
This research, focused on the conjunction
of holographic and computer technologies, have alighted "Alcove Holograms,"
"Ultragrams" and a laboratory prototype to which electronic holographic images
can be computerized and shown in real-time, by means of an opto-acoustic modulator
and a system of revolving mirrors. This research may lead to holographic video
systems in the very near future.
To date, Benton has earned 14 patents and
a number of awards for his work. In 1995, Benton's contributions to the art
and science of holography were recognized with the "Vinci of Excellence" award
of the International Science for Art competition. He belongs to several optical
societies, New York's Museum of Holography and Rochester's Museum of Photography
at Georges Eastman's House's boards of trustees.