Michael F. Tompsett, TheraManager
Michael F. Tompsett’s achievements enabled several new technologies in several industries, ultimately leading to new products. At EEV Ltd. in England he developed the first, in situ, ultra-high vacuum Reflection High-Energy Electron-Diffraction (RHEED) system to study the structures of ultra-thin films during growth. He consulted in the development of the first commercial system of this type in 1969 and these systems are now used to monitor the growth of epitaxial layers by molecular beam for solid-state LEDs and lasers.
In 1968, Tompsett invented the uncooled Pyroelectric Vidicon Camera Tube, leading to night vision cameras. The tube won a British Queen’s Award in 1987. Another invention was for an electronically-scanned, all solid state infrared imager, where a pyroelectric layer formed the gate electrode of an array of MOS transistors. This patent ultimately led to much smaller, solid-state, uncooled night-vision imagers with higher performance and less power consumption. These patents led to night vision products with major impact, particularly for military, firefighting, search and rescue, and other civilian uses worldwide.
Tompsett led the development of CCDs at Bell Laboratories and his group was the first to demonstrate CCD linear and television imagers and color cameras. And in 1979, Tompsett initiated development of the first, integrated, solid state, data modem using MOS silicon switched-capacitor filters and his patented Automatic Gain Control circuit. The MOS analog-digital chip has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Identifying a major need in the 1980s to digitize video signals from imagers and scanners, Tompsett invented an integrated, two-step recycling video analog-digital converter. These are now in mass production. (Photo from White House ceremony courtesy of Ryan K. Morris/National Science & Technology Medals Foundation.)