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Dennard’s invention is now used in computers, cellphones, tablets and other computer devices. Dennard’s invention is now used in computers, cellphones, tablets and other computer devices.

Kyoto Symposium Honors an Inventor

Registration is now open for the SDSU Kyoto Prize Symposium honoring Robert Heath Dennard, Ph.D.
By Natalia Elko

Robert Heath Dennard, Ph.D., who invented one of the most significant advances in computer technology, Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), will be honored as the Kyoto Prize Laureate in advanced technology at this year’s Kyoto Prize Symposium at San Diego State University.

Dennard’s invention is now used in computers, cellphones, tablets and other computer devices, allowing them to perform complex operations more quickly and efficiently, and with less cost. His innovation has increased the capacity of digital information storage, leading to dramatic progress in information and telecommunications technology.

Dennard and his colleagues also proposed guidelines, called “scaling theory,” a framework for understanding and predicting the changes needed to maintain or improve Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) transistor functioning with increasingly smaller chips. “Scaling theory” plays a key role in promoting advancement in integrated circuit technology.

“I believe that creative thinking is basically a process of posing significant questions and finding good answers. Much of the creativity is in the question — ‘What if?  Is there a better way to?’ After a really good question sometimes the answer easily follows,” Dennard said.

Sponsored by the Inamori Foundation, the Kyoto Prize Symposium features lectures by esteemed scholars in the laureates’ fields, including basic sciences, advanced technology and the arts and philosophy. One of the SDSU’s signature events, the annual symposium honors individuals with outstanding lifetime achievement.

A history of success

Dennard received his B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. After receiving his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Dennard joined IBM’s research division, where his early experience included the study of new digital devices and circuits for logic and memory applications and the development of advanced data communication techniques.

Over the course of his career, Dennard’s work has resulted in 65 U.S. patents and the publishing of more than 100 technical papers as well as numerous awards. He has been an IBM fellow since 1979, was awarded the National Medal of Technology from President Ronald Reagan in 1988 and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1997.

In 2009 he was awarded the Charles Stark Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Medal of Honor.

“I am very grateful to the Inamori Foundation for selecting me for this prestigious prize. It’s a great honor for me, and I’m proud to join the illustrious group of electronics engineers who won this award in the past,” Dennard said.

Event details

The symposium will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 18, at the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union in Montezuma Hall.

It is free and open to the public, but registration is requested. Register online.