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05/10/1999 07:00:00

Carver Mead wins Lemelson-MIT Prize

PASADENA-Carver Mead, who is Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science at the California Institute of Technology, has been named winner of the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The announcement was made April 22 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which administers the prize.

The Lemelson-MIT Prize is the world's largest single prize for invention and innovation, according to program coordinators. The award is being given to Mead this year "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."

Mead's major innovations include the MESFET, now called the HEMT, an amplifying device used in microwave communications that is also an integral component of the Internet, as well as computer animation, microchip design, neuromorphic electronic systems, and other computer interfaces.

His laboratory led an effort to create silicon models of specific areas of the nervous system. Early experiments have shown that the elementary operations of the nervous system can be emulated by analog circuits for the creation of novel devices.

In short, his work is aimed at creating novel technologies that will eventually result in human-machine interfaces. The devices his group has already experimented on include a cochlear chip, which is modeled after human hearing, as well as devices modeled after vision and learning.

A graduate of Caltech, Mead has been a member of the faculty for more than 40 years. He holds more than 50 U.S. patents, and has written more than 100 scientific publications.

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 United States.

Administered by MIT, the program is named after Jerome H. Lemelson (1923-1997) and his wife, Dorothy, who established the program in 1994. Administered solely by MIT and based at the Sloan School of Management, the program is under the guidance of economist Lester C. Thurow.

Written by Robert Tindol