Illinois History Minutes

November 3 Illinois History Minute


It’s November 3rd, and engineer Nick Holonyak was born on this day in 1928 in the southern Illinois town of Ziegler, the son of a coalminer from what is now Ukraine. In 1962, he developed the first practical light-emitting-diode, or LED for General Electric. The following year he joined the faculty of his alma mater, the University of Illinois. At a 2012 event marking the LED’s 50th anniversary, Holonyak repeated his prediction (first made in the Reader’s Digest in 1963) that the LED would in time replace Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb, because of its greater efficiency.

“All of this other stuff (other types of artificial light) is some kind of secondary light source,” said Holonyak. “The current is doing something, and then that something is doing something, and finally you get light. In an LED, the light is part of the current itself. That’s why it works as it does.”