M. George Craford

M. George Craford
M. George Craford

Inventor of the first yellow light emitting diode (LED) and pioneer in the development and commercialization of LED materials

For over half a century, the University of Illinois has been at the forefront of light-emitting diode (LED) technology and George Craford has been one of those pioneers. Craford is the key person behind the development of technologies for the highest-brightness yellow, amber, and red LEDs as well as world-class blue LEDs. 

Raised in a farming community in Iowa, Craford earned both a master of science degree (1963) and a PhD (1967) in physics from Illinois while working with the great Nick Holonyak, Jr., the inventor of the first visible direct band gap LED, an invention that enabled the evolution of the high performance LED technology that today is in the process of becoming the dominant technology worldwide.

Craford began his professional career in 1967 at the Monsanto Chemical Company, where he quickly became the leader of the LED technology group for, at the time, the largest LED company in the world. He led the development of an improved new GaAsP:N LED technology in 1971 that yielded the first yellow LED and increased the performance of red LED’s by an order of magnitude. It became the dominant high performance LED technology for more than a decade.

Craford became Director of Technology for the Monsanto Electronics Division in 1974. In 1979, when Monsanto sold their LED and compound semiconductor business, Craford went to Hewlett Packard where he became Technology Manager for the Optoelectronic Division with the responsibility to maintain leadership in LED technology. In 1990, Craford’s team pioneered the development of another new LED technology which utilized the quaternary compound AlInGaP and yielded the world’s highest performance red, orange, and amber LEDs. The first LED with performance of 100 lumens per watt was demonstrated. Devices of this type continue to be used in traffic lights, automobiles, and many other applications.

In 1999, Craford became Chief Technology Officer of Lumileds Lighting, a joint venture between Agilent and Philips. The first high power white LEDs, with inputs of one watt and higher, were developed at Lumileds Lighting and are now widely utilized in many types of lighting including general illumination, automobile taillights, and cellphone flash. Lumileds Lighting, which later became Philips Lumileds Lighting Company, continues to be at the forefront of LED technology.

Craford is currently Solid State Lighting Fellow at Philips Lumileds Lighting Company. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the IEEE. He has been awarded the 2002 National Medal of Technology, the University of Illinois Alumni Distinguished Service Award, the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Award, the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the Optical Society of America Nick Holonyak Jr. Award, the International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors Welker Award, the Materials Research Society MRS medal, the Electrochemical Society Electronic Division Award, the Economist Innovation Award, the Strategies in Light LED Pioneer Award, and the International SSL Alliance Global Solid State Lighting Development Award.


  • 1961 BA University of Iowa
  • 1963 MS Physics ILLINOIS
  • 1967 PhD Physics ILLINOIS