Thursday, March 10, 2011

Saint of Records

The following history of the man that gave us the CD and the means to use light to record information was so well written I have copied it completely. The original link can be found here.

"On the day after the United States marked Martin Luther King's birthday in 2004, another remarkable black man died, in Rome, New York. His name was John Dove, 79, and he was the inventor of the technology which created the CD (compact disk) for storing information. 

A graduate of Columbia University with degrees in math and science, John Dove was hired at the age of 20 by the US government to do research at the Rome Air Development Center, which is now the Air Force's Rome Laboratory. His employers were astonished to see a young black man arrive at their doorstep! Although initially they stuck him by himself in a back room, they soon realized that John could solve the most difficult technical problems, the ones no one else could figure out. 

Born on a farm in North Carolina, John had served in the Army as an X-ray technician, and had developed a device that used electronic beams to record and store information. It was this technology that led to the invention of CDs for information storage. In the beginning, however, his superiors refused to believe that John, "handicapped" by his skin color and youth, could possibly be the inventor of this technology. "I was told it would not work, and that anybody who reveals this idea reveals their lack of scientific knowledge," Dove said. "The (Army) division chief came to me and said, 'I've heard your idea and you know better. You've shown your ignorance of science.' " 

Nonetheless, John persisted with his idea, and earned a patent for it in 1965, disproving that he was "ignorant of science"! 

John Dove went on to establish his own businesses, as Rome's first black real estate agent, and forming Dove Electronics Inc. in Rome in 1983. One of that company's most important products was a wind shear detector created for the Federal Aviation Administration. Dove's latest research was with Syracuse University on a fiber-optic amplifier that will amplify and transmit video and computer data through fiber optic lines. The use will be no different from regular telephone messages or Internet, Dove said shortly before his death, the only difference being that it uses light, which creates a faster speed. 

He was always dressed in a suit and tie, and was known in his community for being a humble man and one who contributed in many ways to benefit both Rome and the nearby city of Syracuse, New York. In 1999, the Urban League of Syracuse and Onondaga County opened three computer centers named in his honor. The intent was to close the "digital divide" between those who had access to the Internet and technology and those who did not. Although two of these centers have since closed due to lack of funds, the third has been reopened by the Syracuse Housing Authority. 

Dove never collected royalties in the United States, but eventually would do so from companies in Japan and France that had used the CD, such as Hitachi and Yamaha. Besides the United States, Dove had traveled to these countries to obtain patents. 

"They had infringed over a period of time and they paid me three percent of all their sales," Dove said of Japan and France. 

In the summer of 2003, Dove was making plans for manufacturing the amplifier when he fell and hit his head. He had two surgeries for a blood clot on his brain and was recovering well. But an infection spread through his body, his daughter said, and his heart failed. "He had faith in technology, faith in God and faith in himself," Susan Dove said. "That really summed him up."

While this unassuming elderly black man might have gone unnoticed in a crowd, his impact on 20th century computer technology will eventually be recognized and honored by African-Americans as a hero, and by all of us as a true genius. "

This humble and brilliant man that knew his idea would work when others doubted and even stood in his way is an example of a true Saint of Science. Amplified by the fact that he did not spend countless hours pursuing reimbursement for his inventions. He cared about the Science, and giving the world something new and fantastic. For this we salute the Saint of Records who ushered in the age of Digital storage.

Thank you John Dove

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Saint of Memory

Do you know how a mineral found on the shores of the Mesopotamian, a light used to illuminate pre-lightbulb stages, and an elderly widow all contributed to the building of the Atomic Bomb? Well most people don't but James Burke sees these connections. Indeed is shows were called Connections (1,2, and 3) as well as the Day the Universe Changed, and several others. He is something so very very rare these days. A Science Historian. Someone who though not a scientist per say, is indeed essential to the scientific process. As Oppenheimer stated so clearly. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Yet how can we do this if we do not remember who has done what and when and how they did it.

James Burke does this, and it is through his efforts to educate others about what has already been explored that new explorers in the worlds of science can step forward onto new ground. Though James Burke is fairly well known, at least in geek circles, others of his kind are less so. Yet they are the ones that report the news, ensure history is recorded. If it were not for them we might be doomed to discover the same technology over and over, forgetting what had already been done. It would not be new. The secret of steel was lost and rediscovered several times on the African continent and in the end when white men finally arrived in droves the secret was lost and their primitive weapons were no match for those from the north.

Those that do not remember history are doomed to repeat it, that goes double for science, and it is thanks to the Saints of Memory, and their figurative leader, James Burke that we can remember what we have done and do things better.