URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – Nick Holonyak, a pioneer in LED lighting, passed away on Sept. 18. He was 93.
The Zeigler, Illinois native was credited with the development of the first practical visible-spectrum LED, now commonly used in light bulbs, device displays and lasers worldwide.
“He was a legendary giant in our field,” said College of Engineering Dean Rashid Bashir, who was a friend and colleague of Holonyak. “The world is a much better place because of him and his work.”
Notably, Holonyak served as two-time Nobel laureate John Bardeen’s first graduate student and worked closely with Bardeen until his death in 1991. During his 50 years as a professor at the University of Illinois, Holonyak held the John Bardeen Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics for several years.
In 1977, Holonyak and his students also demonstrated the first quantum-well laser, now used in fiber optics, CD and DVD players and medical diagnostic devices.
The son of an immigrant coal miner, he worked for Illinois Central Railroad before becoming the first in his family to pursue higher education. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees at Illinois.
After working for Bell Labs, the U.S. Army Signal Corps and General Electric, he joined the University of Illinois faculty in 1963.
He is succeeded in death by his wife Katherine of 60 years. They both lived at an assisted living facility in Urbana.