Robert J. Keyes

March 06, 1927 —  April 25, 2012

Robert J. Keyes, father of the LED, died April 25, 2012.

Robert, a world renowned and honored physicist, was born in Worcester Massachusetts March 6, 1927 to John and Celest Keyes. He served in the US Navy as a corpsman during WW II. While a Corpsman he became extremely interested in pursuing a career in the medical profession. With the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan Bob's interest shifted from medicine to scientific research. In 1946 Bob was honorably discharged from the US Navy.

In 1947 Bob enrolled in the Physics Dept. at Clark University. Here Bob mastered an understanding of physics and was introduced to the leading edge of evolving sciences through seminars given by the Worcester Foundation for Biological Research. While at one of these seminars Bob was introduced to Dr. Pincus and asked to work with him designing a cardiac implant device to help determine why soldiers experiencing non-life threating battlefield injuries were dying.

After graduating from Clark in 1950 with a BS in Physics Bob joined Lincoln Laboratory, MIT's research facility. While at Lincoln Laboratory Bob immersed himself in his core interests of optical and solid state physics. He generated many articles in Physics Review, Applied Physics, Physics Today, etc., presented at various symposia, did theoretical analysis, worked on experimental and hardware design, oversaw projects as an administrator and conducted basic scientific research in the lab as well as in the field, participated in the army's Palantir Study Group on detectors and optical processing, retiring in 1992 as Lincoln Laboratory's Senior scientist.

In 1954 Bob coauthored his first of many papers titled Measurement of Carrier Lifetimes in Germanium and Silicon. Thus Bob's scientific career was launched.

Bob held several positions during his tenure at Lincoln Laboratory. As the lab's Midcourse Objects Program Manager Bob had the responsibility of keeping pulse on various programs of RMD which were aimed at incorporating infrared technology into defense systems of the future and to recommend new programs for Lincoln Laboratory.

In April 1963 at a scientific meeting in Durham NH Bob brought the audience to their feet when he introduced them to the L.E.D. [Light Emitting Diode].

1969 he became Group Leader of the Advanced Sensor Group and was responsible for the operation of the Press Aircraft Site at Hicken Field, Honolulu HI. While there he oversaw the design, construction, testing and mission planning of infrared instruments for use on the Press KC-135 aircraft and ground based installations. This project utilized new concepts to propel detector array capabilities toward the theoretical limits and resulted in realization of the most sophisticated airborne and ground based far infrared radiometers and trackers.

In 1977 as a noted expert in the field of Optics Bob edited a book titled Optical and Infrared Detectors volume 19, sold in English and Russian versions.

Some of Bob's other significant accomplishments are:

  • • Conducted theoretical analysis and determined experimental design limitations of coherent and incoherent detectors for the 10 micron region. The results of this work appeared in various Applied Physics Letters publications and a published book titled Semiconductors and Semimetals.
  • • Co-designed and constructed the 10 KW CO2 laser radar site at the Millstone Radar facility.
  • • Served as an active member of the Tom Committee and in that capacity helped establish the potential roll of infrared technology for offensive and defensive missile systems.
  • • Designed, developed and tested the leading Opto-Radar panels for MM 111 aircraft.
  • • Co-invented the first LED (light emitting diode) with Ted Quist
    • ◦ Their Gallium Arsenide diode was exhibited in the historical display at the Smithsonian Institute. And Bob's name was entered into the pages of Scientist of the Year.
  • • Was active in laser development.
  • • Patented the GaAs Laser.
  • • Co-Invented pumping of solid state lasers with LEDs.
  • • Invented the concept of autodyne detection for CW laser radars.
  • • Developed the theoretical limits of coherent and incoherent detection of weak radiation signal.
  • • Participated in the design and technical evaluation of the Early Warning Satellite System as well as numerous optical and infrared weapon systems.

Before Bob died he designed, tested and evaluated a visual near infrared diaphanography system for medical diagnostics (particularly aimed at early breast cancer detection). This has yet to be published.

Bob leaves his childhood sweetheart Gladys his wife of sixty odd years and their five children; Sandra, Robert, Christopher (pre deceased), Mark and Charles.

More information
Submitted by: Mark Keyes


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Scitation: Robert J. Keyes