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"Father of the pixel" wins inventor award

Martin Schadt's invention paved the way for low-energy devices such as flat screen televisions, tablet computers and mobile phones EPO

Swiss physicist Martin Schadt, inventor of the world’s first flat-panel liquid crystal display – better known as LCD – has won the lifetime achievement award at the European Inventor Award 2013 event.

This content was published on May 28, 2013 - 16:44
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Schadt’s technology paved the way for low-energy devices such as flat screen televisions, tablet computers and mobile phones now used by millions of people worldwide.

The European Patent Office on Tuesday announced the winners, honoured for their contribution to social, economic and technological progress.

Some 500 guests attended the ceremony in Amsterdam, including Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Michel Barnier, the European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services.

The 74-year-old Schadt said he was “very surprised” to receive the award “because my colleagues did beautiful work too. It must have been a difficult decision”.

“Very curious”

Schadt was born just outside Basel and developed an interest for electronics at an early age: when he was 16 he cobbled together a rudimentary shortwave radio from bits of old radios with which he could disturb local reception – much to the annoyance of his neighbours.

After a four-year apprenticeship as an electrician in Basel, he started attending evening university classes and eventually graduated with a degree in experimental physics.

“I’m very curious and am interested in how things work,” he said. “That’s why I studied physics.”

Schadt patented the first organic light emitting display (OLED) in 1969 as a post-doctoral fellow at Canada’s National Research Council. He then joined the Swiss Laboratory for Watch Research at Neuchâtel.

Two years later, he became a member of the newly founded research group at the Central Research Center of Hoffmann-La Roche, working on liquid crystal field-effects and LC-materials.

As head of the liquid crystal department he invented many new electro-optical effects, commercial liquid crystal materials and the photo-polymer liquid crystal alignment technology. 

From 1994, he headed the spin-off company Rolic Ltd as its CEO. 

Today, Schadt holds 110 patents, has won countless awards and is active as a scientific adviser to governments and industrial research groups.

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