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A SALESMAN MEETS THE INVENTOR


In 1969, in a science lab in New Jersey, Canadian physicist Willard Boyle and his colleagues invented the concept of an electronic eye. Using their knowledge of mathematics and the behavior of light, they provided the science behind digital cameras known as a charged-coupled device or CCD. The CCD technology revolutionized photography, as light could now be captured electronically instead of on film. CCD technology is used on the Hubble telescope and the Mars Lunar probe. It was Boyle’s invention that allowed us to see the surface of Mars for the first time. In 2009 Boyle was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.


A few years after the original invention of CCD technology, Boyle walked into a store to purchase a new digital camera based on his invention. During the visit, the salesman tried to explain the intricacies of the digital camera, but stopped, feeling it was too complicated for his customer to understand. According to one long-time friend, Boyle was normally a humble man, but on this occasion he was taken aback by the salesman’s arrogance and disrespect. So Boyle bluntly replied: "No need to explain. I invented it." When the salesman didn’t believe him, Boyle told the salesman to type "Willard S. Boyle" into his computer and see for himself. A Nikon representative in the store heard the exchange and immediately came over to have his photograph taken with the famous inventor.


(Allison Lawlor, "Master of Light invents a photo revolution," Globe and Mail, 5-21-11. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Useful & Fruitful, 9/24/2011)

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