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Dennis Gábor



Dennis Gabor CBE, FRS (original Hungarian name: Gábor Dénes; 5 June 1900 – 8 February 1979) was a Hungarian-British electrical engineer and inventor, most notable for inventing holography, for which he later received the 1971 Nobel Prize in Physics.


He was born as Gábor Dénes, into a Jewish family in Budapest, Hungary. He served with the Hungarian artillery in northern Italy during World War I. He studied at the Technical University of Budapest from 1918, later in Germany, at the Charlottenburg Technical University in Berlin, now known as the Technical University of Berlin. At the start of his career, he analysed the properties of high voltage electric transmission lines by using cathode-beam oscillographs, which led to his interest in electron optics. Studying the fundamental processes of the oscillograph, Gabor was led to other electron-beam devices such as electron microscopes and TV tubes. He eventually wrote his Ph.D. thesis concerning the cathode ray tube in 1927, and worked on plasma lamps.


Gabor, a Jew, fled from Nazi Germany in 1933, and was invited to Britain to work at the development department of the British Thomson-Houston company in Rugby, Warwickshire. During his time in Rugby, he met Marjorie Butler, and they married in 1936. He became a British citizen in 1946, and it was while working at British Thomson-Houston that he invented holography, in 1947. He experimented with a heavily filtered mercury arc light source. However, the earliest hologram was only realised in 1964 following the 1960 invention of the laser, the first coherent light source. After this, holography became commercially available.


Gabor's research focused on electron inputs and outputs, which led him to the invention of re-holography. The basic idea was that for perfect optical imaging, the total of all the information has to be used; not only the amplitude, as in usual optical imaging, but also the phase. In this manner a complete holo-spatial picture can be obtained. Gabor published his theories of re-holography in a series of papers between 1946 and 1951.


Gabor also researched how human beings communicate and hear; the result of his investigations was the theory of granular synthesis, although Greek composer Iannis Xenakis claimed that he was actually the first inventor of this synthesis technique.


In 1948 Gabor moved from Rugby to Imperial College London, and in 1958 became professor of Applied Physics until his retirement in 1967. While spending much of his retirement in Italy, he remained connected with Imperial College as a Senior Research Fellow and also became Staff Scientist of CBS Laboratories, in Stamford, Connecticut; there, he collaborated with his life-long friend, CBS Labs' president Dr. Peter C. Goldmark in many new schemes of communication and display. One of Imperial College's new halls of residence in Prince's Gardens, Knightsbridge is named Gabor Hall in honour of Gabor's contribution to Imperial College. He developed an interest in social analysis and published The Mature Society: a view of the future in 1972.


Following the rapid development of lasers and a wide variety of holographic applications (e.g., art, information storage, and the recognition of patterns), Gabor achieved acknowledged success and worldwide attention during his lifetime. He received numerous awards besides the Nobel Prize.

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