Photo of Ray Dolby

Ray Dolby

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Computer Science

For inventing technologies that have dramatically improved sound recording and reproduction, fostering their adoption worldwide, and maintaining a vision that for more than 30 years has kept the world listening.

Few are the scientists whose work looms so large in the arts. Ray M. Dolby was just that scientist. Dolby pioneered advancements in sound recordings and along the way become both a household name and a billionaire.

Born in Portland, Oregon, and raised in northern California, Dolby was fascinated with sounds from an early age, as a child studying the way the reeds on his clarinet vibrated, Forbes magazine noted at the time of his death in September 2013. A job as a teenager at a videotape recording company added fuel to an already blazing fire.

Dolby studied electrical engineering at Stanford and won a Marshall Scholarship to study physics at Cambridge University, where he received a doctorate in 1961. After a stint with the United Nations in India, Dolby founded Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965. Working from that small lab, he developed the Dolby Sound System, which essentially, media outlets would later note, took the “hiss’’ out of tape recordings.

Musicians and movie makers flocked to his technology, which grew to include digital surround sound, understanding how powerful an enhancement it would be to their products. The clearer sounds allowed audiences to not only hear the sounds, but to feel them as well. The company later moved to San Francisco, where it continues to be a technology powerhouse.

Such was Dolby’s impressive range that he not only earned more than 50 patents, but also won Oscar, Emmy and Grammy awards as well.

By Robert Warren