George H. Heilmeier Display

George H. Heilmeier, an electrical engineer who in the 1960s helped invent a kind of screen display that used liquid crystals to project images — technology that is

now ubiquitous in telephones, digital watches, computer monitors and flat-screen televisions — died April 21 in Plano, Tex. He was 77.

The cause was complications of Alzheimer is disease, his daughter, Beth Jarvie, said.

In the mid-1960s, Mr. Heilmeier was working in a research laboratory of the Radio Corporation of America, better known as RCA, when he and others began experimenting

with creating images electronically by manipulating tiny liquid crystals mounted between thin layers of glass.

In May 1968, RCA announced that it had refined the technology well enough to plan for its use in new products, like clocks.

The liquid-crystal display, or LeD, had the potential to revolutionize many consumer products, The New York   

Among the benefits that might ultimately result from the development are: A thin television screen that can be hung on the living-room wall like a painting. Electronic

clocks and watches with no moving parts. Television screens and electronic signs whose images do not wash out in bright outdoor light, as do displays now in use.

While all those predictions proved true, companies in Japan were far quicker to embrace the technology than were RCA and other American companies. In Japan, the Sharp

Corporation installed some of the first liquid-crystal displays in pocket calculators, digital wristwatches, clocks and tiny television sets before it and other companies expanded

their use in laptop computers, video cameras, compact disc players and medical equipment.


Mr. Heilmeier was often lauded in Japan. And he lamented that the United States was falling behind in technological development.

They are cleaning our clock, Mr. Heilmeier told The Times in 1991.


George Harry Heilmeier was born on May 22, 1936, in Philadelphia, the only child of George and Anna Heilmeier. His father was a janitor, his mother a homemaker.

He excelled at Abraham Lincoln High School and received a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1958 with a degree in electrical

engineering. He earned a master is and a doctoral degree in solid state electronics and engineering from Princeton.


In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 52 years, the former Janet Faunce, and three grandchildren.


Mr. Heilmeier left RCA in 1970 and spent much of the next decade working on military technology for the government. He first spent a year as a White House

fellow, working as a special assistant to Secretary of Defense Melvin P. Laird. He later became director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

, making him the Defense Department s top researcher. In that role he helped develop the technology used in the stealth bomber and other military equipment.

By 1978 he had moved to Texas Instruments, where he rose to chief technical officer. There, in the early 1980s, he helped develop an advanced digital signal

processor that became integral to digital cameras and other devices. In 1991, he became the chief executive and chairman of Bellcore, a research and development

company formed by regional telephone companies after the breakup of AT&T. The company is now called Telcordia.

Mr. Heilmeier received 15 patents, some of which he shared with others, including one for the liquid-crystal display. He received many honors, including

the National Medal of Science, awarded by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, and the Kyoto Prize in 2005. He is a member of the National Inventor

s Hall of Fame, which is operated in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Mr. Heilmeier was not alone in developing the liquid-crystal display. Several other scientists, including James Fergason, who worked at Westinghouse

and later joined the faculty of Kent State University, made important improvements to the technology.

Before LCD became prevalent, screen displays were made using cathode ray tubes, which required much more space.

We always knew exactly what we wanted to do with them: build big flat-panel displays, Mr. Heilmeier told Businessweek in 2005. In fact, flat-panel TV was the holy

grail of the whole TV industry at that time.