01 December 2010

LED Innovator Dies, Age 83

Professor Neumark
(Picture: Columbia University)
A recent obituary reporting the passing of Gertude Neumark Rothschild, from heart failure at the respectable age of 83 years, caught our attention for at least three reasons.

Firstly, she was a Professor of materials science and engineering at Columbia University, where she made important advances in wide bandgap semiconductors which were isntrumental in the commercial development of short-wavelength light emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes.  Semiconductor optical devices are a subject close to the Patentology heart, having been the subject of our PhD research.

Secondly, Professor Neumark (as she was known professionally) obtained patents on aspects of her research, which in 2005 she successfully asserted against a number of companies, including the Philips Lumileds Lighting Company, Epistar, Toyoda Gosei and Osram.  More recently, in 2008, she filed complaints with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) against numerous companies, including such luminaries (pardon the pun) as Sony, Nokia and Hitachi.

All in all, according to her former lawyer, she secured more than US$27 million in settlements and licensing fees from over 40 companies.

Not least, however, we were impressed by her achievement of all this within a male-dominated field, and after her jewish family had fled Nazi Germany for the US in 1935.  As Professor Neumark was reported as saying in 2008, 'I just want recognition for the work that I did, and I want to show that women can do science.'

Well, of course women can do science, although it is telling that this still needs to be said in the 21st century.  Professor Neumark also proved it by example.  Vale and RIP.

To read more:
  1. Obituary in the New York Times.
  2. US Patent No. 4,904,618, 'Process for doping crystals of wide band gap semiconductors'.
  3. US Patent No. 5,252,499, 'Wide band-gap semiconductors having low bipolar resistivity and method of formation'.


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