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Ray Dolby Passes Away at 80

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Ray Dolby
Ray Dolby

Dolby Laboratories announced that Dr. Ray Dolby, an American inventor recognized around the world for developing groundbreaking audio technologies, died yesterday at his home in San Francisco at the age of 80. Dolby had been living with Alzheimer’s Disease in recent years, and was diagnosed in July of this year with acute leukemia.

Dolby founded Dolby Laboratories in 1965 and created an environment where scientists and engineers continue to advance the science of sight and sound to make entertainment and communications more engaging. Dolby’s pioneering work in noise reduction and surround sound led to the development of many state-of-the-art technologies, for which he holds more than 50 U.S. patents.

“Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary,” said Kevin Yeaman, president and CEO, Dolby Laboratories. “Ray Dolby founded the company based on a commitment to creating value through innovation and an impassioned belief that if you invested in people and gave them the tools for success they would create great things. Ray’s ideals will continue to be a source of inspiration and motivation for us all.”

“My father was a thoughtful, patient and loving man, determined to always do the right thing in business, philanthropy and as a husband and father,” said David Dolby, son and member of Dolby Laboratories’ board of directors. “Our family is very proud of his achievements and leadership. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy of innovation will live on.”

Dolby was known for his insatiable curiosity and attributed his success to a quest for education fostered by supportive parents. Early in his career, while attending high school on the San Francisco Peninsula and then Stanford University, he worked at Ampex Corporation and was the chief designer of all electronic aspects of the first practical videotape recording system.

“Though he was an engineer at heart, my father’s achievements in technology grew out of a love of music and the arts,” said Tom Dolby, son, filmmaker and novelist. “He brought his appreciation of the artistic process to all of his work in film and audio recording.”

In the 48 years since he founded Dolby Laboratories, the company has transformed the entertainment experience from the cinema to the living room to mobile entertainment. Tens of thousands of films and billions of products and devices with Dolby technologies have made their way to theaters, homes and consumers’ hands around the world. The industry has awarded Dolby Laboratories with 10 Academy Awards and 13 Emmy Awards for its groundbreaking achievements throughout the years.

Among Dolby’s awards and honors are The National Medal of Technology from President Clinton, (1997) and The Order of Officer of the British Empire, (O.B.E.) from Queen Elizabeth II, (1987), as well as honorary doctorates from Cambridge University and the University of York. He was awarded an Oscar statuette from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1989 and an Oscar plaque in 1979. He was also awarded several Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, as well as a Grammy in 1995. As a former Marshall Scholar, Dolby was also awarded the George C. Marshall Award in 2003. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the U.S. and the Royal Academy of Engineers in the U.K. in 2004.

In 2012, the iconic Hollywood landmark known to the world as the home of the Academy Awards was renamed the Dolby Theatre and the site of the post-Oscars gala was renamed the Ray Dolby Ballroom in his honor.

Together Dolby and his wife, Dagmar, were active in philanthropy and supported numerous causes and organizations. In recent years, two centers of science, research and patient care opened with their support, the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building at the University of San Francisco’s Stem Cell Center and the Brain Health Center at California Pacific Medical Center.

“Ray was generous, patient, intellectually honest and fair-minded. Forever curious, unafraid and oh so persistent, whether we were driving overland from India, flying his planes across the Atlantic or driving the big bus around the National Parks, he not only gave us an exciting life, but was a fantastic role model for our sons,” said Dagmar Dolby, Dolby’s wife of 47 years.

He is survived by his wife, Dagmar, his sons, Tom and David, their spouses, Andrew and Natasha, and four grandchildren.

The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations are made to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1060 La Avenida Street, Mountain View, CA 94043, or the Brain Health Center, c/o CPMC Foundation, 45 Castro Street, San Francisco, CA 94117.

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