Saying “Goodbye” to a Technology Legend

by Ben Stowe, CTS

On November 11th, Professor Gertrude Neumark Rothschild left us at 83 years young.

Who is Gertrude and what does she mean to our industry or to us as individuals?

A Professor of Science and Engineering

She was a professor of science and engineering at Columbia University, and her work on semiconductors led to the breakthrough that is now a familiar technology, the LED.

It’s uses have altered technology broadly, from video boards in arenas to the display on your cell phone, simple signal indicators on electronic devices to traffic signals on our streets, CD and DVD players, and of course the illumination source that is revolutionizing our industry with high output, low power, color mixing light fixtures.

That alone ought to cement her place in history (and earn her a place on my den wall along side Alessandro Voltaire, Heinrich Hertz, Augusto Righi, Nikola Tesla, Andre Marie Ampere, Benjamin Franklin and others).

A Rigorously Defender of Intellectual Property

Not only did she invent and contribute significantly to the development of these technologies, Gertrude rigorously defended the intellectual property associated with them in the form of patents. She sued such notables as Sony, Nokia, Hitachi and Phillips and recovered tens of millions of dollars in settlements and licensing fees.

Beyond what she means to me as a distributor and the explosion of new products her technologies have made possible, and what she means to me as a geek and the breakthroughs she made possible in our understanding of those technologies, it’s notable what she means to me as a father.

A Power of Example to Women

One of the things that Professor Rothschild wanted to impress upon the world was the contributions women have on science. While clearly she is not the only woman to make significant contributions to science and invention, she certainly has helped set a tremendous example for my two daughters. That’s not to say that they will have careers in science, but rather that they can have successful careers in any field they choose.

Beyond the enhancements her Light Emitting Diode (LED) technologies have given us, it’s clear to me that Professor Rothschild has helped illuminate the world in a few other ways as well.

It won’t be hard to find reminders of her impact in technology, the laptop I’m writing this article on serves as a poignant one. I hope, too, to see reminders of her in my own daughters as they advance into careers of their own choosing.

Ben Stowe, CTS “Sound & Lighting Guru”

Ben Stowe serves the AV industry as the President of NLFX Professional, an industry leading supplier of sound, lighting and video systems, a role he has maintained since founding the company in 1993. Ben’s AV installs have been featured in almost every major industry trade magazine. He has assisted lighting manufacturers with product R&D, as well as contributing to the DJ industry through presentations at trade shows and articles for magazines in the U.S. and Europe. Ben holds an electrical license as well as other certifications and accreditations, including the most widely recognized one in the AV industry, the InfoComm CTS. Ben’s highly praised “Event Lighting” DVD is available at To watch a promotional video about it click here. To contact him email

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