Nick Holonyak invented the LED 50 years ago.

Holonyak and a research team at GE were conducting what he calls exploratory work--creating “a lot of history and a lot of devices that didn’t exist until we made them exist."

Holonyak and a research team at GE were conducting what he calls exploratory work--creating “a lot of history and a lot of devices that didn’t exist until we made them exist."

Holonyak ends the video with an appeal to future generations: “Learn more, do more, build more, reveal more.”

Co.Design

How Lasers And A Competitive Streak Led To The LED

Nick Holonyak, inventor of the LED, discusses the discovery.

Happy 50th birthday, LEDs! It was the summer of 1962 when Nick Holonyak Jr. made a massive leap forward in the evolution of efficient electronic illumination. He and a research team at GE were conducting what he calls exploratory work--creating “a lot of history and a lot of devices that didn’t exist until we made them exist"--and building upon the discovery of scientist Robert Hall, who built the world’s first semiconductor laser, which was infrared and invisible.

In the video above, the now 83-year-old Holonyak, who is still a professor at the University of Illinois, discusses his upbringing--including parents who were “not educated, but both knew that school was important”--and the elation that came along with developing a red laser “you could see with your eyes,” earning him the distinguished title of inventor of the light-emitting diode (which was labeled with the handwritten note, "The Magic One").

Of course, GE produced this video largely to pump up its 27-watt LED bulb--available in 2013--to replace the 100-watt incandescent. But it does produce a touching moment at the end, when Holonyak is handed this new specimen; his face lights up as he handles it gently while carefully looking it over . “It’s much more compact than I thought it would be,” he says. “I thought it would be clumsier. It looks like it would be more like a 40-watt bulb.” He smiles widely as he leans forward with excitement. “And you know what? This isn’t the end!”

(H/T GE Reports)

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