Home International Physics Nobel gone to undeserving duo, say former colleagues

Physics Nobel gone to undeserving duo, say former colleagues


Toronto : After the Nobel Peace Prize for US President Barack Obama, controversy has also hit this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics.

Two former colleagues of Canadian Willard Boyle and American George Smith, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics for inventing an image sensor that pioneered digital photography, say the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the wrong men.

Eugene Gordon and Mike Tompsett, who worked with the two Nobel Prize winners at Bell Labs in New Jersey in the 1960s, say the two men played no role in the breakthrough mentioned in the Nobel citation.

“They wouldn’t know an imaging device if it stared them in the face,” 79-year-old Gordon, who worked at Bell Labs for 26 years and now lives in New Jersey, told the Canadian Press.

He said the patent on which the two men got the Nobel prize made no mention of imaging devices called the charge-coupled device (CCD).

Gordon said the patent by Smith and Boyle related to CCD shift register, not digital imaging.

“I think they made a mistake (in awarding the Nobel Prize to Boyle and Smith). That citation was totally wrong…They had nothing to do with the invention of imaging devices,” he said.

Instead, the award should have gone to Tompsett who worked at Bell Labs at that time, he said.

It was Tompsett who designed the first two CCD cameras at Bell Labs and his name is on the patents, said Gordon.

Tompsett added that Boyle and Smith deserve credit for their original concept, but they were headed in the wrong direction with it. “They were looking at memory. They did not anticipate imaging.” But the Nobel committee cited imaging as the reason for the award.

“If you take it all literally, the prize should have been given to me. I think if their name is on it, mine should be, too,” Tompsett said from New Jersey.

But the two Nobel winners were unfazed.

Said Boyle, who now lives in eastern Canada, “I am totally confident that the Nobel committee made the right decision. I can clearly remember the day that George [Smith] and I developed the concept for the CCD.”

Added Smith, “I have documentation that disproves most of what they are saying and the rest of what they are saying is not at all logical.”