Nick Holonyak Jr.

Nick  Holonyak Jr.
Nick Holonyak Jr.
Inventor of the light-emitting diode (LED) and a contributor to the first practical quantum well laser, which enabled modern fiber optics communication.

Nick Holonyak Jr. was the first graduate student of two-time Nobel Laureate John Bardeen, an Illinois professor who invented the transistor, and he holds the John Bardeen Endowed Chair in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Physics. An early researcher in semiconductor electronics, Holonyak gained eminence through his numerous inventions and contributions to advances in semiconductor materials and devices.

Before joining the Illinois faculty in 1963, Holonyak worked for Bell Telephone Labs, where he helped develop silicon-diffused transistor technology. While at General Electric, he also invented the first practical light-emitting diode and the first semiconductor laser to operate in the visible spectrum. He also developed the first electronic devices in III-V compound semiconductor alloys and is the inventor of the basic silicon device used in household light-dimmer switches.

At Illinois, Holonyak and his research group demonstrated the first quantum-well laser in 1977, creating a practical laser for fiber-optic communications, medical diagnosis, surgery, and many other applications. In 1981, they invented the impurity disordering process that is used in the manufacturing of solid state lasers. in 1990, Holonyak and his team discovered the native oxide for vertical cavity surface-emitting diode lasers, which are widely used in optical communications. In 2004, he co-invented the transistor laser, the first three-terminal laser.

Among Holonyak’s many awards are the Lemelson-MIT prize, Global Energy Prize from Russia, the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Medal of Science, the Japan Prize, and the National Academy of Sciences’ Award for the Industrial Application of Science. Holonyak is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences; a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, the IEEE, and the Optical Society of America; and a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Eight of his 60 doctoral students are members of the National Academy of Engineering.


  • BS, Electrical Engineering, 1950
  • MS, Electrical Engineering, 1951
  • PHD, Electrical Engineering, 1954