Stanford Ovshinsky

Updated: 11/16/2019 by Computer Hope
Stanford Ovshinsky

Name: Stanford "Stan" Ovshinsky

Born: November 24, 1922, in Akron, Ohio, USA

Death: October 17, 2012 (Age: 90)

Computer-related contributions

  • His inventions transformed the computer hardware, automobile, and solar power industries. Holder of over 350 patents.
  • In the 1960s, he discovered new ways to combine chalcogenides, which are the elements in group 16 of the periodic table. He ground Tellurium and Selenium into powder to create a thin film alloy with new electronic properties. The films would reverse state from resistor to conductor when given a strong electric pulse.
  • His discoveries led to the creation of amorphous silicon semiconductors, or "bistable electric memory," a technology used in CD-RW and DVD-RW optical disks, and phase-change memory like Intel's 3D XPoint.
  • Had uncommon insight into how elements would interact when combined. Created semiconductors from materials thought impossible to work with in the past. Drew inspiration from biological systems such as neurons to design groundbreaking electrical and mechanical systems.
  • Believed that reducing human dependence on oil is critical to ending war. His belief inspired him to develop technologies for hydrogen-powered automobiles, and thin-film solar panels which today are used throughout the world.

Significant publications

  • Solving Serious Societal Environmental Problems Through New Approaches to Catalysis (2002).
  • Phase Change Optical Storage (2001).
  • Fundamentals and Implications of Amorphous and Disordered Materials (1998).
  • A Mechanism for High Temperature Superconductivity (1993).
  • Disordered Materials: Science and Technology (1991, ed. David Adler, Brian Schwartz and Marvin Silver).
  • Solar Energy and Superconductivity - Opposite Sides of the Same Coin (1989).
  • Asymmetric Flux-Flow Behavior in Superconducting Multi-layered Composites (1984).
  • The Basic Concepts of Amorphous Semiconductors (1976).
  • Amorphous Semiconductors (1969).
  • The Physical Base of Intelligence - Model Studies (1959).

Honors and awards

  • National Inventors Hall of Fame (2015, posthumous).
  • Engineering Society of Detroit Lifetime Achievement Award (2008).
  • TIME Magazine Hero for the planet (2008).
  • Frederick Douglass/Eugene V. Debs Award (2006).
  • Solar Hall of Fame (2005).


"I made hydrogen [powered] cars that had absolutely no emissions, just a little water vapor. And the Japanese saw this, and had to cup their hands under the exhaust, and drink the water, because they didn't believe it."