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James Hillier

James HillierBorn: 22-Aug-1915
Birthplace: Brantford, Ontario, Canada
Died: 15-Jan-2007
Location of death: Princeton, NJ
Cause of death: Cerebral Hemorrhage
Remains: Buried, Brantford, Ontario, Canada

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Electron microscope

The electron microscope was invented by Ernst Ruska, but the first practical version was designed by physicist James Hillier and classmate Albert Prebus at the University of Toronto in 1937. They built a functioning prototype high-resolution electron microscope that Hillier later called "strictly a string and beeswax operation."

He was hired immediately after graduation by Vladimir Zworykin at RCA, and there he developed the first commercially viable electron microscope. RCA's sales staff at the time had no idea how to market it, so Hillier became the machine's chief salesman, explaining it to technical experts in numerous fields. In its first generation it was capable of showing objects magnified up the several hundred thousand times their actual size; present-day models are capable of magnification in the millions of times. By comparison, optical microscopes at the time Hillier joined RCA were capable of about 2000x magnification.

Hillier later oversaw all of RCA's research, invented the electron microprobe, and worked on electron guns and electron lenses. His son, Bill Hillier, was a producer of the 1980s TV game show Jumble. Prebus, Hillier's classmate and co-designer of the Toronto prototype microscope, became a professor of optical physics at Ohio State University.

Father: James Hillier (mechanical engineer)
Mother: Ethel Cooke Hillier
Sister: May Hillier
Sister: Thelma Hillier Henshaw
Wife: Florence Bell Hillier (florist, m. 24-Oct-1936, d. 1992, two sons)
Son: James Robert Hillier (architect)
Son: William Wynship Hillier (television producer, d. 2002)

    High School: Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, Brantford, Canada (1933)
    University: BA Mathematics, University of Toronto (1937)
    University: MA Physics, University of Toronto (1938)
    University: PhD Physics, University of Toronto (1941)
    Teacher: Physics, Princeton University (1950-53)

    RCA EVP (1970-77)
    RCA VP (1958-70)
    RCA General Manager, RCA Laboratories (1957-58)
    RCA Research (1954-57)
    Westinghouse Research Director, Melpar (1953-54)
    RCA Research (1940-53)
    Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame 2002
    Order of Canada 1997
    IEEE Founders Medal 1981
    National Inventors Hall of Fame 1980
    Industrial Research Institute Medal 1975
    IEEE David Sarnoff Award 1967
    Lasker Award 1960 (with Ernst Ruska)
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Management Association
    American Philosophical Society
    Electron Microscope Society of America President (1945)
    Eta Kappa Nu Honor Society
    National Academy of Engineering 1967
    Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society
    Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
    Naturalized US Citizen 1945
    Canadian Ancestry

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