Audio Innovator Ray Dolby Passes Away – He held more 50 U.S. patents

SAN FRANCISCO — Dolby Laboratories founder Dr. Ray Dolby died Sept. 12 at his home in San Francisco at age 80.



In 1965, Dolby founded Dolby Laboratories, whose major accomplishments include the development of noise-reduction and surround-sound technologies. He held more than 50 U.S. patents.

“Tens of thousands of films and billions of products and devices with Dolby technologies have made their way to theaters, homes and consumers’ hands around the world,” the company said.

Dolby Laboratories has also won 10 Academy Awards and 13 Emmy Awards for its technologies, which are “an essential part of the creative process for recording artists and filmmakers,” the company said.

Early in his career, Dolby worked at Ampex Corp., where he was chief designer of all electronic aspects of the first practical videotape recording system, the company said.

In recent years, Dolby had been living with Alzheimer’s disease. In July, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia, the company said.

“Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary,” said Kevin Yeaman, Dolby president and CEO. “Ray Dolby founded the company based on a commitment to creating value through innovation and an impassioned belief that if you invested in people and gave them the tools for success they would create great things.”

Son Tom Dolby, a filmmaker and novelist, said that although his father “was an engineer at heart, my father’s achievements in technology grew out of a love of music and the arts. He brought his appreciation of the artistic process to all of his work in film and audio recording.”

Ray Dolby and his wife, Dagmar, were active in philanthropy. In recent years, two centers of science, research and patient care opened with their help. They are 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.

Ray Dolby was born in Portland, Ore., in January 1933. His family eventually moved to the San Francisco peninsula. From 1949 to 1957, he worked on various audio and instrumentation projects at Ampex, where he led the development of the electronic aspects of the Ampex videotape recording system. In 1957, he received a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. When he was awarded a Marshall Scholarship and a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship, Dolby left Ampex to pursue additional studies at Cambridge University in England. In 1960, Dolby became the first American to be named a Fellow at Pembroke College.

Dolby received a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge in 1961 and in 1983 was elected an Honorary Fellow. While at Cambridge, he met his wife, Dagmar, who attended Cambridge as a summer student in 1962. During his last year at Cambridge, Dolby also served as a consultant to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.

In 1963, Dolby became a United Nations advisor in India for two years, after which he returned to England and founded Dolby Laboratories in London in 1965. In 1976, he moved to San Francisco, where the company established its headquarters, laboratories and manufacturing facilities.

Dolby’s awards and honors include the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton  in 1997, the Order of Officer of the British Empire (O.B.E.) from Queen Elizabeth II in 1987, an honorary doctorate of science at Cambridge University in 1997, and an honorary doctorate from the University of York in1999.

Dolby had also been awarded the following industry awards: an Oscar statuette from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1989, Oscar Class II from A.M.P.A.S. in 1979, and several Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for the invention of the Ampex video tape recorder and for his work at Dolby Laboratories in 1989 and 2005). He was also awarded a Grammy from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1995 and received the Berlin Film Festival Berlinale Kamera Award in 2012, and the San Francisco Film Society’s George Gund III Award last year.

He also received the Audio Engineering Society’s Silver and Gold Medals in 1971 and 1992, respectively, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ Edison Medal in 2010. As a former Marshall Scholar, he was awarded the George C. Marshall Award in 2003.

He was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the U.S. and the Royal Academy of Engineers in the U.K. in 2004.

Dolby is survived by his wife, Dagmar, his sons, Tom and David, their spouses, Andrew and Natasha, and four grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1060 La Avenida Street, Mountain View, Calif., 94043, or the Brain Health Center, c/o CPMC Foundation, 45 Castro St., San Francisco, Calif., 94117.

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