Photo of Steven Sasson

Steven Sasson

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Electronics

For the invention of the digital camera, which has revolutionized the way images are captured, stored, and shared, creating new opportunities in commerce, education, and global communication.

Steven Sasson on his childhood inquisitiveness

Whether you’re a nature photographer with a high-end DSLR or you take “selfies” with a point-and-shoot, you’ve seen first hand the work of Steven J. Sasson.

Sasson, an electrical engineer at Eastman Kodak Company, created the first digital camera, and as a result, changed the way photographers—of all expertise—would capture images and memories going forward.

The invention started out as a mere experiment, Sasson told the National Science and Technology Medal Foundation. There was no budget to build the contraption; he and another technician simply collected spare parts from the factory and research labs at Kodak and built it as a side project.

That first model was clunky, the image quality was black-and-white and grainy, and people raised questions about its functionality for consumers. (How would these digital snapshots be stored?” they asked.) But it worked.

By the early 1990s, the company was producing the new—and expensive—cameras en masse, marketing first to professional photographers and then later to everyday consumers. Later, the technology would aid in advances in health care and scientific discoveries and evolve to what we know today.

“I probably was the person who first took digital snapshots,” he said, “and I hadn’t really envisioned all of this unfolding in this way.”

By Sydni Dunn