Dennis Gabor

(1900—1979) electronics engineer and humanist

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Hungarian-born British electrical engineer and inventor of the hologram. He was awarded the 1971 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Born in Budapest, the son of a businessman, Gabor was educated in Budapest and at the Technische Hochschule, Charlottenburg. After working in industry for several years, Gabor decided to leave Germany for England in 1933 on account of the Nazis. In the following year he accepted a position with British Thomson-Houston in Rugby, for whom he worked on the development of the electron microscope. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939 Gabor, as an alien, was excluded from the secret work being undertaken by British Thomson-Houston. Consequently he turned to problems that were sufficiently theoretical to remain unclassified. One of the problems he tackled arose out of attempts to improve the resolving power of the electronic microscope. Rather than attempt to obtain a better picture, Gabor chose to consider how more information could be extracted from the existing picture. The result, first obtained in 1948, was the three-dimensional picture, now known as a hologram, reconstituted from the diffraction patterns made by the illuminated object.

In 1948 Gabor left British Thomson-Houston for Imperial College, London, where he became professor of electron physics (1958–67). In later years he began to speculate about the future and the ways in which it could be influenced by scientific innovation. He expressed his views in the popular work Inventing the Future (1963).

Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Arts and Humanities.