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1st June, 2006


Thursday 12:09

Dennis Gabor (1900 - 1979), the inventor of holograms, was commemorated today (Thursday 1 June), with an English Heritage blue plaque at 79 Queens Gate, Kensington, London, SW7, where he lived from 1949 to the early 1960s. The plaque was unveiled by Professor Sir Eric Ash, Gabor's first doctoral student, in the presence of the Hungarian Ambassador to Great Britain, His Excellency Bela Szombati.

A brilliant physicist, Dennis Gabor is best remembered for his invention of holography, which he discovered by accident while working to improve the electron microscope. This innovation eclipsed his other great achievements, such as the quartz mercury street lamp and the flat television tube. Holograms have many applications in everyday life and are used on credit cards, for research, in medicine and also as an art medium. As a result, Gabor was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1971 and described himself as "one of the few lucky physicists who could see an idea of theirs grow into a sizeable chapter of physics".

Dennis Gabor was born Gabor Denes in Hungary in 1900, the son of an engineer. By the age of 16, his ability for mathematics and physics was already to degree standard but he had to fulfil military service before graduating in electronic engineering in 1924. He went on to be awarded a doctorate at the age of 27 for his work on high speed cathode ray oscillographs, the forerunner of television tubes. During the next five years he worked at the Siemens Company, where he invented a high pressure quartz mercury lamp, which has since been used in millions of street lamps.

Gabor left Germany in 1934 and came to England as a research engineer in the British-Thomson-Houston Company at Rugby. Here he worked on a range of projects including, 3-D image projection for cinemas, a scheme for detecting heat from aeroplane exhausts and the design of the flat television tube. Gabor was working with the electron microscope when he invented holography; whereby two electron images are combined and lit optically to create a 3-D image. His ground-breaking idea remained mostly theoretical until the invention of lasers in the 1960's, which allowed his theory to be put into practice and championed as a major discovery.

From 1948 Gabor was Reader in Electron Physics at Imperial College, London, where he continued his work on holography with his students. He and his wife moved into a one-bedroom flat on the first floor of 79 Queen's Gate, which was a short walk from his laboratory in the City and Guilds building in Exhibition Road. Living close to his work was extremely important to Gabor, for he often worked late and at weekends, and he also enjoyed entertaining his students and colleagues at his home. In 1961 or 1962 the Gabors moved next door to Flat 1, 78 Queen's Gate, where they lived until retiring to Italy in 1967. Gabor worked part-time as a consultant for CBS Laboratories in America, where he continued his research until he died in 1979 in a nursing home in South Kensington, London.


Note to Editors

* Salvador Dali discussed with Gabor the possible applications of holography in art and, as a result, was the first artist to use holograms as an art medium with his piece 'First Cylindrical Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper's Brain', 1973. In 2003, the Queen commissioned a holographic portrait, "Equanimity", by light artist, Chris Levine. Queen's Gate forms part of a grade II listed terrace built c.1856-9.

Issued on behalf of English Heritage by Government News Network London.

Client ref 128-05-06

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