Photo of Praveen Chaudhari

Praveen Chaudhari

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Computer Science

For the discovery and development of a new class of materials-the amorphous magnetic materials-that are the basis of erasable, read-write, optical storage technology, now the foundation of the worldwide magnetic-optic disk industry.

Praveen Chaudhari was part of a three-scientist team whose research led to the creation of the rewritable computer disk. Oddly, it was an invention he didn’t use.

“I don’t use it at all,’’ he told The New York Times in 2003. “I’m not into mobile music.’’

No matter, the rewritable disk became a $2 billion industry and garnered international fame for Chaudhari and his fellow IBM inventors, Richard Gambino and Jerome Cuomo.

Born in India, Chaudhari came to U.S. to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a doctorate in 1966. Shortly after he joined IBM and rose through the ranks, eventually becoming vice president of science, a position that that oversaw research labs in New York, California and Zurich, Switzerland. During his tenure IBM scientists won Nobel Prizes in physics in 1986 and 1987.

Chaudhari also served on various government commissions in the U.S. and India, and was executive secretary of President Ronald Reagan’s Advisory Council on Superconductivity. In 2003 he retired from IBM and became director of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., a post he held until 2006.

By Robert Warren