By Lin Parkin
September 13, 2013
Ray Dolby, one of the most prolific ambassadors of sound, passed away at his home on September 12, 2013 at the age of 80, ending his struggle with acute Leukemia and Alzheimer's.
An American engineer, Ray became famous for inventing Dolby NR, the noise reduction system that took the "hiss" out of audio recordings.
Born in Portland Oregon he was raised in San Francisco and went on to receive a B.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford University, where he won a Marshall Scholarship for a Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University.
After studying at Cambridge, Ray became a technical advisor to the United Nations in India. In 1965 he returned to England and officially launched his namesake company, Dolby Laboratories. In the same year he invented the Dolby Sound System in the UK. His first U.S. patent was not filed until four years later. In 1975 he moved back to San Francisco where he established his company headquarters.
Ray's innovative audio technology earned him numerous honours and awards including an Oscar, a Grammy and two Emmys and he was a member of the prestigious Forbes 400 list. His work with noise reduction and surround sound led to the creation of a number of technologies that are still used in movies, music, and video games to this day.
His co-workers remember him as an inspiring, thoughtful man. One who cared passionately about engineering and giving back. Dolby Laboratories released a video tribute honouring Ray's life and work. You can watch it here: Remembering Ray Dolby.
Dolby and his wife were quite active in philanthropy and supported a number of causes including; the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building at the University of California, San Francisco's Stem Cell Center and the Brain Health Center at California Pacific Medical Center.
His legacy will live on forever in the audio community.
Voice Actors Pay Tribute
"From a filmmaker standpoint, Ray Dolby's innovations made film scoring and sound effects mixing a new art. After Ray, it was possible to imagine the sound design in a particular scene much more easily with true surround sound while mixing and punching in effects, etc. Orchestral scores became more nuanced as a result of Ray Dolby's work. Such an innovator, actually a genius. Ray will be missed..."- Markham Anderson
"I've admired professionals of all shapes and specialties, all throughout our business. They each played a crucial role in my life path and for our eco-system of production people who work on the sound for just about every product imaginable. There aren't many and I'm sure there is a larger argument to be had here. Maybe even one or two missing names... but these individuals affected my life directly or through their work. Here they are: Phil Spector, Rupert Neve, Bob Moog, Rick Ruben and Ray Dolby. Without these men, it would be very different and I thank them for their contributions." - Todd Resnick
How has Dolby Surround Sound affected your life?
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All the best,