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Dennis Gabon



Dennis Gabor (Gábor Dénes) (5th June, 1900, Budapest – 9th February, 1979, London) was a Hungarian physicist and inventor who is most notable for inventing holography. While working in Britain, Dennis Gabor invented holography in 1947, an achievement for which he later received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971. Holography however did not become commercially available until the introduction of the laser after 1960.

1988 Hungarian stamp honoring Dennis GaborBorn as Dénes Gábor,Dennis Gabor studied at the Technical University of Budapest and, in Germany, at the Charlottenburg Technical University in Berlin. At the start of his career, he analyzed 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. Dennis Gabor eventually wrote his Ph.D. thesis concerning the cathode ray tube (1927) and worked on plasma lamps.

Having fled from Nazi Germany in 1933, Gabor was invited to Britain to work at the development department of the British Thomson-Houston company in Rugby, Warwickshire. While working there, he invented holography in 1947, an achievement for which he later received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971.

The research of Gabor focused on electron optics, which lead him to the invention of 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 as well. In this manner a complete (holo) spatial picture (graf) can be obtained. Gabor published his theories of optical imaging and 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 claims that he was actually the first inventor of this synthesis technique (Xenakis, Formalized Music, preface xiii).

At the time Dennis Gabor developed holography, coherent light sources were not available, so the theory had to wait more then a decade until the first practical applications were realized. The invention of the laser (1962), the first coherent light source, was followed by the first hologram, in 1963.

In 1948 Gabor moved from Rugby to the Imperial College London, and in 1958 became professor of Applied Physics until his retirement in 1967. He spent most of his retirement in Italy. He had an interest in social analysis and published The Mature Society : a view of the future in 1972. Gabor wrote, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

Due to rapid development of lasers and a wide variety of holographic applications (e.g. art, information storage, recognition of patterns), Dennis Gabor achieved acknowledged success and worldwide attention during his lifetime. He received numerous awards besides the NOBEL PRIZE in Physics (1971).

Dennis Gabor is briefly mentioned in Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, in which he is referred to as "quite possibly the Antichrist" by Hal. This may be an allusion to the destructive role holographic films play in that novel.

The Potsdam Technology Center, Potsdamer Centrum für Technologie, is located on Dennis-Gabor Strasse in Potsdam.


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