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The native form of this personal name is Gábor Dénes. This article uses the Western name order.
Dennis Gabor
Born 5 June 1900(1900-06-05)
Budapest, Hungary
Died 9 February 1979 (aged 78)
London, England
Fields Electrical engineering
Institutions Imperial College London
British Thomson-Houston
Alma mater Technical University of Berlin
Technical University of Budapest
Known for Invention of holography
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1971)
IEEE Medal of Honor (1970)

Dennis Gabor (original Hungarian name: Gábor Dénes) CBE, FRS, (5 June 1900, Budapest – 9 February 1979, London) was a Hungarian electrical engineer and inventor, most notable for inventing holography, for which he later received the Nobel Prize in Physics.



He was born as Gábor Dénes,[1] in Budapest, Hungary.[2] He served with the Hungarian artillery in northern Italy during World War I.[2] He studied at the Technical University of Budapest from 1918, later in Germany, at the Charlottenburg Technical University in Berlin, now known as the Technical University of Berlin.[1] 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.[1] Studying the fundamental processes of the oscillograph, Gabor was led to other electron-beam devices such as electron microscopes and TV tubes. He eventually wrote his Ph.D. thesis concerning the cathode ray tube in 1927, and worked on plasma lamps.[1]

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. During his time in Rugby, he met Marjorie Butler, and they married in 1936. It was while working at British Thomson-Houston that he invented holography, in 1947.

Gabor's research focused on electron inputs and outputs, which led him to the invention of re-holography.[1] 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. In this manner a complete holo-spatial picture can be obtained.[1] Gabor published his theories of re-holography in a series of papers between 1946 and 1951.[1]

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 claimed that he was actually the first inventor of this synthesis technique.[3]

At the time Gabor developed holography, coherent light sources were not available, so the theory had to wait more than a decade until its first practical applications were realized, though he experimented with a heavily filtered mercury arc light source.[1] The invention in 1960 of the laser, the first coherent light source, was followed by the first hologram, in 1964, after which holography became commercially available.

In 1948 Gabor moved from Rugby to Imperial College London, and in 1958 became professor of Applied Physics until his retirement in 1967. While spending much of his retirement in Italy, he remained connected with Imperial College as a Senior Research Fellow and also became Staff Scientist of CBS Laboratories, in Stamford, Connecticut; there, he collaborated with his life-long friend, CBS Labs' president Dr. Peter C. Goldmark in many new schemes of communication and display. He developed 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."[citation needed]

Following the rapid development of lasers and a wide variety of holographic applications (e.g. art, information storage, recognition of patterns), Gabor achieved acknowledged success and worldwide attention during his lifetime.[1] He received numerous awards besides the Nobel Prize.

The International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) presents its Dennis Gabor award annually, "in recognition of outstanding accomplishments in diffractive wavefront technologies, especially those which further the development of holography and metrology applications."

The NOVOFER Foundation of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences annually presents its International Dennis Gabor Award, for young scientists researching in the fields of physics and applied technology.


References in Literature

Reference is made to Dennis Gabor in David Foster Wallace's book "Infinite Jest." The character Hal Incandenza is quoted as believing that "... Dennis Gabor may very well have been the Antichrist." p. 12.

See also


Social analysis
  • Inventing the Future (Secker & Warburg, 1963)
"The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man's ability to invent which has made human society what it is." (Pelican Books, 1964, p. 161)
  • Innovations: Scientific, Technological, and Social (1970)
  • The Mature Society. A View of the Future (1972)
  • Beyond the Age of Waste: A Report to the Club of Rome (Pergamon international library of science, technology, engineering and social studies, paperback, 1978)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Fizikai Szemle 1999/5 - Zsolt Bor: OPTICS BY HUNGARIANS" (with Dennis Gabor), József Attila University, Szeged, Hungary, 1999, webpage:KFKI-Hungary-Bor.
  2. ^ a b Johnston, Sean (2006). "Wavefront Reconstruction and beyond". Holographic Visions. Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 9780198571223.,M1. 
  3. ^ Xenakis, I.: Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (Harmonologia Series No.6), preface xiii. Pendragon Press, 2001

Further reading

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dennis Gabor, FRS, (June 5, 1900, Budapest – February 9, 1979, London) was a Hungarian-born British physicist and inventor at Imperial College London (1958-1967), most notable for inventing holography in 1949, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971.



Inventing the Future (1963)

  • I do not know of anything in modern poetry as violently hostile to contemporary life as was the poetry of T. S. Eliot, which so perfectly fitted the mood of the young people between the two wars. I also find much more benevolence towards humanity in younger historians than there was in Spengler or in Toynbee. Still, it is not difficult to sense the disgust of the intellectuals at the new prosperous working class, 'with their eyes glued to the television screen,' who have become indifferent to radical ideas.
    • Pelican Books, 1964, p. 18
  • It would be pleasant to believe that the age of pessimism is now coming to a close, and that its end is marked by the same author who marked its beginning: Aldous Huxley. After thirty years of trying to find salvation in mysticism, and assimilating the Wisdom of the East, Huxley published in 1962 a new constructive utopia, The Island. In this beautiful book he created a grand synthesis between the science of the West and the Wisdom of the East, with the same exceptional intellectual power which he displayed in his Brave New World. (His gaminerie is also unimpaired; his close union of eschatology and scatology will not be to everybody's tastes.) But though his Utopia is constructive, it is not optimistic; in the end his island Utopia is destroyed by the sort of adolescent gangster nationalism which he knows so well, and describes only too convincingly.
    This, in a nutshell, is the history of thought about the future since Victorian days. To sum up the situation, the sceptics and the pessimists have taken man into account as a whole; the optimists only as a producer and consumer of goods. The means of destruction have developed pari passu with the technology of production, while creative imagination has not kept pace with either.
    The creative imagination I am talking of works on two levels. The first is the level of social engineering, the second is the level of vision. In my view both have lagged behind technology, especially in the highly advanced Western countries, and both constitute dangers.
    • Pelican Books, 1964, p. 18-19
  • The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man's ability to invent which has made human society what it is.
    • Pelican Books, 1964, p. 161


  • Ever since 1958, I have spent much time on a new interest; the future of our industrial civilization. I became more and more convinced that a serious mismatch has developed between technology and our social institutions, and that inventive minds ought to consider social inventions as their first priority. This conviction has found expression in three books, Inventing the Future, 1963, Innovations, 1970, and The Mature Society, 1972. Though I still have much unfinished technological work on my hands, I consider this as my first priority in my remaining years.
  • It is impossible to predict the future, the best we can do is to invent it.
  • The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
    • Allegedly and far more famously, this passage is said by Alan Kay, too. A sort of peaceful co-existence exists between the two camps who bother little whose original idea and wording it is. Most likely is Gabor's idea and Kay's rewording. So rewording is so rewarding!
  • You can't predict the future, but you can invent it.

External links

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