Bill Parker (inventor)

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William P. (Bill) Parker is an artist, scientist, and entrepreneur, best known for inventing the modern design of the plasma lamp.[1] The invention occurred in 1971, when Parker was working as a student in a physics laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and accidentally filled a test chamber to a greater-than-usual pressure with ionized neon and argon.[2] Three years later, Parker was artist-in-residence at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and created two installations using this technology, entitled Quiet Lightning and AM Lightning.[2][3][4][5]

Parker has also exhibited at the MIT Museum,[6][7][8][9] the New York Hall of Science,[10] and the Housatonic Museum at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut.[11] He was the youngest Fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies.[12] Plasma globes based on his designs were commercially popular in the 1980s[13][14] and “are found in nearly every science museum in the world.”[15]

In the 1980s, Parker founded Diffraction Ltd,[15][16] a defense electro-optics developer that was purchased by the O'Gara Group in 2005.[17] and in 2006 he spun off another company, Creative MicroSystems, focusing on microfluidics.[16] He maintains a studio in Waitsfield, Vermont, and in 2008 he was elected to the Waitsfield select board.[18][19]



  1. ^ Gache, Gabriel (January 31, 2008), "How do Plasma Lamps Work", Softpedia
  2. ^ a b Wolf, Lauren (October 27, 2008), "Plasma Globes: Inert gases and electricity combine to generate colored streamers of light", Chemical & Engineering News.
  3. ^ The Artists-In-Residence Program at the Exploratorium.
  4. ^ AM Lightning by Bill Parker Archived December 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, The Exploratorium.
  5. ^ Cole, K. C. (July 9, 1978), "San Francisco's Scientific Fun House", The New York Times.
  6. ^ "On The Town", The Tech, September 2, 1994.
  7. ^ Davis, William A. (February 1, 1997), "Hi-Tech Hijinks: The MIT Museum Makes Science Into Family Fun", Boston Globe.
  8. ^ Malina, Roger (June 1995), "Exhibit Review: MIT Museum Holograms", Leonardo Electronic Almanac, 3 (6).
  9. ^ "See how far an idea can go", OpenDoor: the Arts, MIT Alumni Association, February 2001, archived from the original on March 20, 2008.
  10. ^ Funke, Phyllis (April 7, 1974), "Science Is Blended With Art in Display", The New York Times.
  11. ^ Raynor, Vivien (January 12, 1992), "Sculpture Show Fills the Housatonic Museum's New Gallery", The New York Times.
  12. ^ Exhibit artists – Bill Parker Archived December 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, The Exploratorium.
  13. ^ "And now, son of Lava Lamp", Miami Herald, November 10, 1984
  14. ^ "Playthings meant for grownups", Philadelphia Inquirer, November 7, 1986.
  15. ^ a b Vermont Inventor Offers Leahy Panel Advice On Patent Reform Archived December 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, April 25, 2005.
  16. ^ a b Pellett, Dorothy (September 10, 2007), "Invention is the soul of Creative MicroSystems", Burlington Free Press, archived from the original on January 18, 2013.
  17. ^ "O'Gara Group Makes Second Acquisition In Optics Area", Defense Daily, May 31, 2005.
  18. ^ "Parker runs for select board in Waitsfield", Valley Reporter, February 14, 2008.
  19. ^ Town of Waitsfield, Vermont – Select Board Archived February 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved December 18, 2008.

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