Sound Pioneer Ray Dolby 1933 – 2013

Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories and philanthropist, passed away on Thursday September 12th.  His contributions to high quality sound changed how we experience entertainment.

Ray Dolby, holder of 50 patents and Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy award-winning sound pioneer.

Ray Dolby, holder of 50 patents and Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy award-winning sound pioneer.

Becoming fascinated with sound at an early age led to summer jobs at Ampex, where he helped develop their first audio tape recorder. The U.S. Army Veteran then went on to gain both his electrical engineering degree at Stanford and a doctorate in physics from Cambridge University.  After serving as a UN technical advisor in India, Dolby returned to England where he founded his namesake company (and Dolby Sound System) in 1965.

The talented audio engineer became known as the “man who took the hiss out” of audio recordings, thanks to the analog Dolby noise reduction system.  In 1977, Dolby became a household name with the releases of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars.  Though he battled both Alzheimer’s Disease and acute leukemia, Mr. Dolby’s legacy of innovation continued after he stepped down several years ago.  The Dolby Atmos 64-speaker system was designed to completely immerse the audience into a film, with some speakers only handling one sound.  If you saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at an Atmos-enabled theater, you know how revolutionary the technology is.

Ray Dolby’s passing has become a trending topic on Twitter, with hundreds of tweets celebrating his achievements.  It’s safe to say that without Mr. Dolby’s contributions, sound in music and film would be a very different experience. He is survived by his wife and two adult sons.

The Dolby website has posted a lovely tribute to their leader, including some inspiring quotes that exemplify Mr.Dolby’s approach to invention.“To be an inventor, you have to be willing to live with a sense of uncertainty, to work in this darkness and grope towards an answer, to put up with anxiety about whether there is an answer.”

For a list of Dolby’s achievements, click here.

To read more about the life of Ray Dolby, visit these articles:
Sound Pioneer Ray Dolby, of Dolby Labs, Dies at 80 (latimes.com)
Billionaire Sound Pioneer Ray Dolby Dies, Age 80 (forbes.com)
How Ray Dolby Revolutionized the Way We Hear Sound (washingtonpost.com)

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