George E. Smith’s speech at the Nobel Banquet in the Stockholm City Hall, 10 December 2009.
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, Willard Boyle and I would like to sincerely thank the Nobel Committee and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for bestowing this great honor upon us. I am sure that Bill will agree with me that it comes as the supreme highpoint of our professional lives. And I’m certain that Professor Kao feels the same way.
It is heartening for us to see that the use of the CCD as solid state imaging devices initiated a revolution in which photographic film and electron beam imaging tubes were relegated to history. As part of the accelerating rise in information technology, it has helped transform the way we live our lives. Think of snapping a photo with your cell phone and instantly sending it to a friend thousands of miles away instead of finishing the roll of film, having it developed, putting it in an envelope and posting it to a far away country. Much easier to forget about it. The device is being used in many other applications including TV cameras, satellite surveillance and a variety of medical imaging applications. The one application which makes maximum use of the devices characteristics is in astronomy. CCD’s have been used to gaze much deeper and more accurately into the universe than ever before. This has resulted from the increased efficiency, lower noise, and larger dynamic range using CCDs than that which can be attained with photographic film. Also, the fact that you are using the same detector with each exposure allows you to correct for systematic errors in the CCD. No device is ever perfect nor is photographic film. Photographic film is a different detector with every shot. I was once thanked by a young astronomer for originating the device that created an avalanche of new data and made creating an original thesis project much, much easier. I have also been thanked by mobile TV cameraman for the big reduction in weight of their load.
In conclusion, I would like to extend our thanks to Bell Labs for providing the environment in which the inception of the CCD took place and to the Nobel Committee for recognizing this achievement.