Inventor/scientist/philanthropist and founder of Dolby Laboratories, Dr. Ray Dolby passed away from leukemia on September 12. Born in Oregon in 1933, he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Standford University, and received a Marshall Scholarship and earned his doctorate from England’s Cambridge University, where he was the first American to be named a Research Fellow at Pembroke College. Prior to earning his degrees, from 1949 to 1957, he worked for Ampex on a videotape recording system, among other projects. In the early ’60s he consulted for the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, then served as a United Nations technical advisor in India.
He founded Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965, relocating the company to San Francisco in 1976. Dr. Dolby was granted more than 50 U.S. patents for noise reduction technologies, surround sound technologies, and more—his first patent was in 1969, for the Dolby Sound System, an electronic filter first used by Decca Records. According to Dolby Labs, his work is said to have been incorporated into “tens of thousands of films and billions of products and devices around the world.” To date, the company received 10 Academy Awards and 13 Emmy Awards.
Dr. Dolby received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton, the Order of Officer of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II, honorary doctorates from several universities, Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, awards from several film festivals, Gold and Silver medals from the Audio Engineering Society (where he was a Fellow and past president), the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ Edison Medal, the George C. Marshall Award, a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the U.S. and the Royal Academy of Engineers in the U.K.
With his wife Dagmar, Dolby, who was a billionaire member of the Forbes 400, used his fortune for philanthropy, supporting the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building at the University of San Francisco’s Stem Cell Center and the Brain Health Center at California Pacific Medical Center.