MICROELECTRONICS PIONEER WINS
$500,000 LEMELSON-MIT PRIZE
Dr. Carver Mead of CalTech Honored for
His Contributions to Today's Microcircuit Industry
San Francisco, CA (April 22, 1999) —The Lemelson-MIT
Program has awarded its annual $500,000 prize — the world's
largest single prize for invention and innovation — to Dr.
Carver Mead, a visionary in the field of microelectronics and Gordon
and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science at
California Institute of Technology. Dr. Mead was selected for his
many contributions to the field of microelectronics, which have
led to a new business model for the industry and enabled a new wave
of innovation in information technology.
Dr. Mead's major innovations include what is now called HEMT, the
standard amplifying device used in microwave communication systems,
which consumers use every day when making telephone calls or dialing
into the Internet. HEMT is also used in satellite and fiber optic
links and cellular telephones.
He is also well known for pioneering computer automation through
his design concept for VLSI (very-large-scale integrated) circuits,
called structured custom design, which is used today by all semiconductor
companies. His work with VLSI is also aimed at teaching engineering
students how to design microchips, directly contributing to an explosion
in the number of new chips on the market.
Dr. Mead's other work involves experimenting with neuromorphic
electronic systems, which are systems that are closely modeled on
the functions of living nervous systems. He and his students hold
key patents on systems modeled after the vision, hearing and learning
of humans. According to Mead, products based on these principles
have the potential to transform the interface between computers
and images, sounds and people.
Dr. Mead holds BS, MS and PhD degrees from the California Institute
of Technology, where he has taught for more than 40 years. Throughout
his career as an inventor, author and educator, Mead has received
more than a dozen honors in the microelectronics and engineering
fields. He holds over 50 US patents, has written and contributed
to more than 100 scientific publications, and holds fellowships
or distinguished memberships in seven different scientific and professional
Mead grew up in Big Creek, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains
of California, where he attended a back-woods school with twenty
students and one or two teachers, depending on the year. He cites
his sixth grade teacher as a major influence for introducing him
to the world of mathematics and science. "He gave me a book
that contained some elementary trigonometry, and I saw how to tell
the height of a tree without climbing it." Mead also credits
his father with introducing him to electrical phenomena by bringing
home cast-off batteries, switches, and other gear from his job at
the local power plant.
"The Lemelson-MIT Program is helping us all move forward toward
a new model where we find greater respect and acceptance for those
who think unconventionally," says Mead. "There are young
people out there all the time thinking of new ways to do things.
It is really great that programs like Lemelson-MIT exist to encourage
those people to set their own course."
The Lemelson-MIT Prize is awarded annually to a living American
inventor who has significantly contributed to society through invention
and who has shown a tireless commitment to stimulating invention
and creativity in the US.
"Carver has demonstrated a unique ability to identify areas
of developing importance in electronics and to jump in at the right
time to accelerate progress," says Gordon E. Moore, Chairman
Emeritus, Intel Corporation. "His contributions to VLSI design
trained a generation of engineers that has driven the semiconductor
industry, and his work on electronic analogs and biological systems
has advanced both neural networks and our understanding of how our
eyes and ears process information."
Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994
by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife,
Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through
outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest
for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages
young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering,
technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded
by the Lemelson Foundation, which supports other invention initiatives
at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire
College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance
and the University of Nevada, Reno.
Dr. Stephanie L. Kwolek, retired DuPont chemist, received the 1999
Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award. Both Mead and Kwolek were
honored at a black-tie Lemelson-MIT Awards ceremony at the Exploratorium
in San Francisco on April 22, 1999. To read about former Lemelson-MIT
Award winners, see our Winners' Circle
Read more about Dr. Carver Mead.
top of page