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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 10:21 GMT
Friends remember hologram pioneer
The Benton Hologram is on credit cards
Credit card holograms are named after Professor Benton
Friends have paid tribute to Stephen Benton, inventor of the holograms on credit cards, who died recently.

"He dominated the field of holography for decades," William Mitchell, colleague and friend of Professor Benton told BBC World Service.

The "defender of nerd pride" and pioneer of 3D imagery, made rainbow holograms visible using normal light.

Professor Benton died on 9 November from brain cancer, aged 61. He was a founding member of MIT's Media Lab.

Proud of 'nerds'

Affectionately known as "Mr Holography", the holograms seen on credit cards are named after him.

The professor was considered to be a "Pied Piper" for digital artists, Professor Mitchell head of media arts and sciences at MIT said.

Professor William Mitchell
One of the wonderful things he did a few years ago was make some nerd pride buttons, so for a while everyone was walking around MIT with them
Professor William Mitchell, MIT
His research interests spanned hardcore physics to cutting edge culture, and he taught generations of artists to work in 3D media, he added.

"He was a defender of nerd pride, incredibly smart, but not necessarily very socially adept kids who changed the world," Professor Mitchell told the BBC radio programme Go Digital during a visit to London to promote his new book, Me++.

"One of the wonderful things he did a few years ago was make some nerd pride buttons, so for a while everyone was walking around MIT with them."

After Professor Benton saw his first hologram in 1964, it amazed him so much he said he knew his life would never be the same again.

Holography records patterns of light waves on chemically sensitive film or glass and the 3D effect is created by converging direct and indirect laser beams.

3D passion

The Benton Hologram was a significant development because it meant holograms could be mass produced using an embossing method.

Subsequently, it has been used on millions of credit cards, bank notes in security and publishing industries around the world.

1947: Dennis Gabor invents theory of holography
1960: Invention of laser helped hologram development
1962: Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks made first laser 3D hologram of toy train and bird
1985: Benton creates 3D floating green car on Boston skyline
Hologram taken from Greek words holos or "whole" and gramma, or "message"
His work has also led to holograms being used to render 3D images for sophisticated medical scanning machines.

His passion for 3D technologies started when he first donned 3D glasses to watch The House of Wax, aged 11.

"One of his later achievements was a working prototype of holographic television which is absolutely extraordinary," said Professor Mitchell.

Other renowned academics added their tributes on the Professor's website.

"Steve brought a joy and spirit of inventiveness to all that he did," said MIT President Charles Vest.

"He was a gifted teacher, scientist, engineer and artist who personified the best of MIT."

"As a world leader in both technology and the arts, Steve Benton epitomized the Media Lab," said Nicholas Negroponte, MIT Media Lab chairman.

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