James Fergason invented an improved liquid crystal display.
James Fergason, while Associate Director of the Liquid Crystal
Institute at Kent State University in Ohio, discovered the twisted nematic field effect of liquid crystals in 1969. (The first LCD was
invented by George Heilmeier at RCA).
Fergason (1934- ) left the University but stayed in Kent, Ohio to found his own
company, International Liquid Crystal Company (ILIXCO). Here Fergason invented an improved display, based on the twisted nematic field effect.
Fergason's company began manufacturing and marketing the new displays in 1971. One of ILIXCO's first customers was the Gruen watch company. The displays that ILIXCO sold to Gruen were used in the first LCD watches that utilized the field effect display. The new display proved superior to the earlier dynamic scattering display, and the field effect LCD soon became the standard display for digital watches.
Fergason did not make his patent application public at the time,
and Wolfgang Helfrisch and Martin Schadt of F. Hoffmann La Roche
of Basel, Switzerland, published a paper on the same effect in
1971. Hoffmann La Roche eventually purchased Fergason's patent
James Fergason received a B.S. in physics from the University of Missouri in
1956 and began his career at Westinghouse in 1957. He holds more than 50 U.S.
patents and has won many awards for his work on liquid crystal technology.
Today, he is president of Optical Shields, a Silicon Valley firm that produces
Today the LCD is the most common digital watch display.
In the early 1970s LCD watches were in competition with LEDs for the electronic
digital watch market. By 1977 consumers came to prefer LCDs over LEDS in digital watches.
Before 1960 ~