Physics Illinois alumnus M. George Craford awarded IEEE Edison Medal

Siv Schwink
11/28/2016 11:51 AM

Physics Illinois alumnus M. George Craford awarded IEEE Edison Medal
Physics Illinois alumnus M. George Craford awarded IEEE Edison Medal
Physics Illinois alumnus M. George Craford has been selected for the IEEE Edison Medal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The medal is awarded annually in recognition of a career of meritorious achievement in electrical science, electrical engineering, or the electrical arts. The citation reads, “for a lifetime of pioneering contributions to the development and commercialization of visible LED materials and devices.”

Craford is best known for his invention of the first yellow light emitting diode (LED). During his career, he developed and commercialized the technologies yielding the highest-brightness yellow, amber, and red LEDs as well as world-class blue LEDs. He is a pioneer whose contributions to his field are lasting.

Raised in a farming community in Iowa, Craford received a master of science degree (1963) and a doctoral degree (1967) from Physics Illinois. As a student, he worked under Nick Holonyak, Jr., the inventor of the first visible direct band gap LED, an invention that enabled the evolution of the high performance LED technology now in use worldwide.

Craford began his professional career in 1967 at the Monsanto Chemical Company, where he quickly became the leader of the LED technology group for what was at that time the largest LED company in the world. He led the development of an improved new GaAsP:N LED technology in 1971 that yielded the first yellow LED and increased the performance of red LED’s by an order of magnitude. It became the dominant high performance LED technology for more than a decade.

In 1974, Craford was appointed Director of Technology for the Monsanto Electronics Division. When Monsanto sold its LED and compound semiconductor business in 1979, Craford took a position at Hewlett Packard, where he served as Technology Manager for the Optoelectronic Division, with the responsibility of maintaining leadership in LED technology. In 1990, Craford’s team pioneered the development of another new LED technology that utilized the quaternary compound AlInGaP and yielded the world’s highest performance red, orange, and amber LEDs. The first LED with performance of 100 lumens per watt was demonstrated. Devices of this type continue to be used in traffic lights, automobiles, and many other applications.

In 1999, Craford became Chief Technology Officer of Lumileds Lighting, a joint venture between Agilent and Philips. The first high power white LEDs, with inputs of one watt and higher, were developed at Lumileds Lighting and are now widely used in many types of lighting, including general illumination, automobile taillights, and cellphone flashes. Lumileds Lighting, which later became Philips Lumileds Lighting Company, today maintains its position at the forefront of LED technology.

Craford is currently Solid State Lighting Fellow at Philips Lumileds Lighting Company. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the IEEE. He is the recipient of many honors, including the 2002 National Medal of Technology, the University of Illinois Alumni Distinguished Service Award, the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Award, the IEEE Third Millennium Medal, the Optical Society of America Nick Holonyak Jr. Award, the International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors Welker Award, the Materials Research Society MRS medal, the Electrochemical Society Electronic Division Award, the Economist Innovation Award, the Strategies in Light LED Pioneer Award, and the International SSL Alliance Global Solid State Lighting Development Award. In 2014, he was inducted to the Engineering at Illinois Hall of Fame.

The IEEE Edison Medal will be presented to Craford at the IEEE Honors Ceremony in San Francisco on May 25, 2017, during the IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit. The award includes a gold medal, a bronze replica, a certificate, and an honorarium.

About the medal

On October 21, 1879, Thomas Alva Edison succeeded in producing the first practical incandescent electric light bulb—the beginning of modern illumination. Twenty-five years later, on February 11, 1904, a group of Edison's friends and associates created a medal in his name to commemorate the achievements of a quarter of a century in the art of electric lighting. In their words, "The Edison Medal should, during the centuries to come, serve as an honorable incentive to scientists, engineers, and artisans to maintain by their works the high standard of accomplishment set by the illustrious man whose name and feats shall live while human intelligence continues to inhabit the world."

Four years later, the Institute of Electrical Engineers entered into an agreement with the founders to award the medal, adding IEEE to its designation. The IEEE Edison Medal has been presented annually since 1909 to a single recipient who, like Edison, has applied his imagination and desire to achieve a better standard of living through electrical advancements has bridged the gap between imagination and realization.

Recent News

Assistant Professors Verena Martinez Outschoorn and Liang Yang of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have each been selected for 2017 NSF CAREER Awards. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award of the National Science Foundation is conferred annually in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars by integrating outstanding research with excellent education. Receipt of this honor also reflects great promise for a lifetime of leadership within recipients’ respective fields.

Mason says, “there are so few of us, people get the impression that we are like unicorns – either non-existent or magical.” We are far from non-existent, but I find women of color to be quite magical. However, as Jesse Williams says, “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”

  • Outreach

It’s up to you and your team to save the free world from evil forces plotting its destruction, and you have precisely 60 minutes to do it. You must find out what happened to Professor Schrödenberg, a University of Illinois physicist who disappeared after developing a top-secret quantum computer that can crack any digital-security encryption code in the world.  Unfortunately, the previous groups of special agents assigned to the case disappeared while investigating the very room in which you now find yourself locked up, Schrödenberg’s secret lab.

LabEscape is a new science-themed escape room now open at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, testing the puzzle-solving skills of groups of up to six participants at a time. Escape rooms, a new form of entertainment cropping up in cities across the U.S. and around the globe, provide in-person mystery-adventure experiences that have been compared to living out a video-game or movie script. A team of participants is presented with a storyline and locked into a room with only one hour to find and decipher a sequence of interactive puzzles that will unlock the door and complete the mission. Two escape room businesses are already in operation in the area, C-U Adventures in Time and Space in Urbana and Brainstorm Escapes in Champaign.


  • Research
  • AMO/Quantum Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Topological insulators, an exciting, relatively new class of materials, are capable of carrying electricity along the edge of the surface, while the bulk of the material acts as an electrical insulator. Practical applications for these materials are still mostly a matter of theory, as scientists probe their microscopic properties to better understand the fundamental physics that govern their peculiar behavior.

Using atomic quantum-simulation, an experimental technique involving finely tuned lasers and ultracold atoms about a billion times colder than room temperature, to replicate the properties of a topological insulator, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has directly observed for the first time the protected boundary state (the topological soliton state) of the topological insulator trans-polyacetylene. The transport properties of this organic polymer are typical of topological insulators and of the Su-Schrieffer-Heeger (SSH) model.

Physics graduate students Eric Meier and Fangzhao Alex An, working with Professor Bryce Gadway, developed a new experimental method, an engineered approach that allows the team to probe quantum transport phenomena.