By McGill Reporter Staff
Friends, colleagues and dignitaries paid homage earlier this month to Nobel laureate and McGill alumnus Willard Boyle, who passed away on May 7 at the age of 86 near his home in Wallace, Nova Scotia.
“The McGill community has been saddened by the death of one of our renowned graduates, Dr. Willard Boyle, who shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics,” said McGill’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Heather Munroe-Blum. “On behalf of the University, I extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends. Dr. Boyle’s remarkable achievements in digital optics included the development of a device that is a key component of today’s digital cameras and the Hubble space telescope. Dr. Boyle made a tremendous contribution to science and the world around us and we are proud to count him among our alumni.”
Born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, but raised in Chaudière, Quebec where his father was a lumber camp doctor, Boyle was home schooled by his mother before attending high school at Montreal’s Lower Canada College.
A spitfire pilot in the Fleet Air Arm of Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, Boyle went on to complete three degrees at McGill, including a Bachelor of Science in 1947, a Master’s in 1948 and a PhD in Physics in 1950. He later taught physics at Queen’s University but spent the majority of his professional career at Bell Laboratories in the United States.
Boyle and his colleague George E. Smith won the Nobel in 2009 for their work on the charge-coupled device, or CCD, that is found in a range of products from point-and-shoot cameras to bar-code readers, photocopiers and medical imaging devices. In its Nobel citation, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said: “CCD technology makes use of the photoelectric effect, as theorized by Albert Einstein and for which he was awarded the 1921 year’s Nobel Prize.” Boyle and Smith shared the Prize with Charles Kuen Kao, who won for his “groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication.”
Boyle was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2010 and was inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in 2005.
“Dr. Boyle made Canada very proud when he achieved the highest international honour for his work: the Nobel Prize for Physics,” said the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology)after Boyle’s passing. “It was the highest recognition of his lifelong career as a researcher and inventor. Canada will miss his passion for physics and his contributions to knowledge, both in our country and around the world.”