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George Craford has been a leader in the development and implementation of light-emitting diode (LED) technology for nearly 50 years. He started at Monsanto Chemical Company, then the leading supplier of compound semiconductor materials and just entering the commercial LED business. He led the development of an improved new GaAsP:N LED technology in 1971 that yielded the first yellow LED, increased the performance of red LEDs by an order of magnitude, and became the dominant high-performance LED technology for more than a decade. Craford became director of technology for the Monsanto Electronics Division in 1974.
When Monsanto sold its LED and compound semiconductor business in 1979, Craford went to Hewlett Packard, where he became technology manager for the Optoelectronics Division, responsible for maintaining leadership in LED technology. In 1990 his team pioneered the development of another new LED technology that utilized the quaternary compound AlInGaP and yielded the world’s highest-performance red, orange, and amber LEDs as well as the first LED with performance of 100 lumens per watt. Devices of the latter type are used in traffic lights, automobiles, and many other applications.
In 1999 Craford became chief technology officer of Lumileds Lighting, a joint venture between Agilent and Philips that is now called Philips Lumileds Lighting Company. The company developed the first high-power white LEDs (with inputs of one watt and higher), which are now widely used in many types of lighting, including general illumination, automobile headlights, and cellphone flash, and it remains at the forefront of LED technology.
Craford is currently Solid State Lighting Fellow at Philips Lumileds Lighting Company. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the IEEE. He has received the 2002 National Medal of Technology, University of Illinois Alumni Distinguished Service Award, IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Award, IEEE Third Millennium Medal, Optical Society of America Nick Holonyak, Jr. Award, International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors Welker Award, Materials Research Society MRS Medal, Electrochemical Society Electronic Division Award, Economist Innovation Award, Strategies in Light LED Pioneer Award, International SSL Alliance Global Solid State Lighting Development Award, and in 2014 was elected to the University of Illinois Engineering Hall of Fame.
Raised in an Iowa farming community, he studied physics at the University of Iowa, where he earned his BA in 1961, and at the University of Illinois, where he received his PhD in 1967.