Ray Dolby

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Ray Dolby
Dolby (left) being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 2004
Born Ray Milton Dolby
(1933-01-18)January 18, 1933
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Died September 12, 2013(2013-09-12) (aged 80)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Spouse(s) Dagmar Bäumert (m. 1966; wid. 2013)
Engineering career
Engineering discipline Electrical engineering, physics
Institution memberships Dolby Laboratories
Significant projects Dolby NR
Significant design Surround sound
Significant awards
Military career
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service early 1950s

Ray Milton Dolby, OBE (January 18, 1933 – September 12, 2013) was an American engineer and inventor of the noise reduction system known as Dolby NR. He helped develop the video tape recorder while at Ampex and was the founder of Dolby Laboratories.

Early life

Dolby was born in Portland, Oregon, the son of Esther Eufemia (née Strand) and Earl Milton Dolby, an inventor. He was raised in San Francisco and attended Sequoia High School (class of 1951) in Redwood City, California. As a teenager in the decade following World War II, he held part-time and summer jobs at Ampex in Redwood City, working with their first audio tape recorder in 1949. While at San Jose State College and later at Stanford University (interrupted by two years of Army service),[3] he worked on early prototypes of video tape recorder technologies for Alexander M. Poniatoff and Charlie Ginsburg. As a non degree-holding "consultant",[3] Dolby played a key role in the effort that led Ampex to unveil their prototype Quadruplex videotape recorder in April 1956 which soon entered production.[3]


In 1957, Dolby received his B.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford.[4] He subsequently won a Marshall Scholarship for a Ph.D. (1961) in physics from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Research Fellow at Pembroke College.

After Cambridge, Dolby acted as a technical advisor to the United Nations in India, until 1965, when he returned to England, where he founded Dolby Laboratories in London with a staff of four. In that same year, 1965, he officially invented the Dolby Sound System, a form of electronic filter, although his first U.S. patent was not filed until 1969, four years later. The filter was first used by Decca Records in the UK.[5]

Dolby was a Fellow and past president of the Audio Engineering Society.


Dolby died of leukemia on September 12, 2013, at his home in San Francisco at the age of 80.[6] Dolby was survived by his wife Dagmar, two sons, Tom and David, and four grandchildren.[7] Kevin Yeaman, president and chief executive of Dolby Laboratories, said "Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary".[7] Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said Dolby had "changed the way we listen to music and movies for nearly 50 years" and that Dolby's "technologies have become an essential part of the creative process for recording artists and filmmakers, ensuring his remarkable legacy for generations to come."[8]

In his will, Dolby bequeathed more than $52 million to Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge, the largest single donation received by the University's current fundraising campaign.[9]

Dolby noise reduction

The analog Dolby noise-reduction system works by increasing the volume of low-level high-frequency sounds during recording and correspondingly reducing them during playback. This reduction in high-frequency volume reduces the audible level of tape hiss.[5]

Awards and honors

U.S. patents


  1. Schudel, Matt (September 15, 2013). "Ray Dolby, 80. Audio pioneer changed sound of music". The Washington Post. p. C8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Ray Milton Dolby". Newsmakers. Detroit: Gale. 1986. K1618001948.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  4. Singer, Natasha (12 September 2013). "Ray Dolby, Who Put Moviegoers in the Middle of It, Is Dead at 80". The New York Times. p. A20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 Williamson, Marcus (13 September 2013). "Ray Dolby obituary: Inventor whose noise-reduction technology transformed sound reproduction". The Independent.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Founder and Director Emeritus of Dolby Laboratories Dies at Age 80". Dolby Laboratories. September 12, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Vincent, James (September 13, 2013). "A minute's silence: audio pioneer Ray Dolby dies aged 80". The Independent.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Audio pioneer Ray Dolby dies aged 80". BBC News. September 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "American inventor bequeaths largest-ever donation to Cambridge's Pembroke College". Cambridge News. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 "AES Awards". Audio Engineering Society. Retrieved April 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Academy Awards Database". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "SMPTE Progress Medal Past Recipients". Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Retrieved April 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "The Eduard Rhein Ring of Honor Recipients". Eduard Rhein Foundation. Retrieved April 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Technical GRAMMY Award". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Medals, Technical Field Awards, and Recognitions". Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Retrieved 2013-09-15.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Benzuly, Sarah (September 1, 2003). "Ray Dolby Receives Emmy Engineering Award". Mix.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "Ray Dolby is inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. March 8, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Ray Dolby was Honored with a Posthumous Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". Hollywood Walk of Fame. January 22, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links