Ray Dolby

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Ray Dolby
Dolby (left) being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004
Ray Milton Dolby

(1933-01-18)January 18, 1933
Portland, Oregon, United States
DiedSeptember 12, 2013(2013-09-12) (aged 80)
San Francisco, United States
Home townPortland, Oregon and San Francisco, California
Spouse(s)Dagmar Baumert
Engineering career
DisciplineElectrical engineering, physics
InstitutionsDolby Laboratories
ProjectsDolby NR
Significant designSurround sound
Military career
Service/branchU.S. Army
Years of serviceearly 1950s

Ray Milton Dolby, OBE (January 18, 1933 – September 12, 2013) was an American engineer and inventor of the noise reduction system known as Dolby NR. He helped develop the video tape recorder while at Ampex. He was the founder of Dolby Laboratories. He was also a billionaire and a member of the Forbes 400 with an estimated net worth of US$2.9 billion in 2008[3] although as of September 2012 it was estimated to have declined to $2.4 billion.[4]

Early life

Dolby was born in Portland, Oregon, the son of Esther Eufemia (née Strand) and Earl Milton Dolby, an inventor. He was raised in San Francisco and attended Sequoia High School (class of 1951) in Redwood City, California. As a teenager in the decade following World War II, he held part-time and summer jobs at Ampex in Redwood City, working with their first audio tape recorder in 1949. While at San Jose State College and later at Stanford University (interrupted by two years of Army service),[5] he worked on early prototypes of video tape recorder technologies for Alexander M. Poniatoff and Charlie Ginsburg. As a non degree-holding "consultant",[5] Dolby played a key role in the effort that led Ampex to unveil their prototype Quadruplex videotape recorder in April 1956 which soon entered production.[5]


In 1957, Dolby received his B.S. in electrical engineering from Stanford. He subsequently won a Marshall Scholarship for a Ph.D. (1961) in physics from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Research Fellow at Pembroke College.

After Cambridge, Dolby acted as a technical advisor to the United Nations in India, until 1965, when he returned to England, where he founded Dolby Laboratories in London with a staff of four. In that same year, 1965, he officially invented the Dolby Sound System, a form of electronic filter, although his first U.S. patent was not filed until 1969, four years later. The filter was first used by Decca Records in the UK.[6]

Dolby was a Fellow and past president of the Audio Engineering Society.


Dolby died of leukemia on September 12, 2013, at his home in San Francisco at the age of 80.[7] Dolby was survived by his wife Dagmar, two sons, Tom and David, and four grandchildren.[8] Kevin Yeaman, president and chief executive of Dolby Laboratories, said "Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary".[8] Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said Dolby had "changed the way we listen to music and movies for nearly 50 years" and that Dolby's "technologies have become an essential part of the creative process for recording artists and filmmakers, ensuring his remarkable legacy for generations to come."[9]

Dolby noise reduction

The analog Dolby noise-reduction system works by increasing the volume of low-level high-frequency sounds during recording and correspondingly reducing them during playback. This reduction in high-frequency volume reduces the audible level of tape hiss.[6]

Awards and honors

US patents


  1. ^ Schudel, Matt (September 15, 2013). "Ray Dolby, 80. Audio pioneer changed sound of music". The Washington Post. p. C8.
  2. ^ "Ray Milton Dolby". Newsmakers (fee, via Fairfax County Public Library). Detroit: Gale. 1986. Gale Document Number: GALE|K1618001948. Retrieved 2013-09-16. Biography In Context. (subscription required)
  3. ^ "The 400 Richest Americans: #144 Ray Dolby". Forbes. September 17, 2008. Retrieved June 16, 2013.
  4. ^ "Ray Dolby". Forbes. 2012-04-18. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  5. ^ a b c Wolpin, Stewart. "The Race to Video". Invention & Technology, Fall 1994.
  6. ^ a b Williamson, Marcus (13 September 2013). "Ray Dolby obituary: Inventor whose noise-reduction technology transformed sound reproduction". The Independent. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
  7. ^ "Founder and Director Emeritus of Dolby Laboratories Dies at Age 80". Dolby Laboratories. September 12, 2013.
  8. ^ a b Vincent, James (September 12, 2013). "A minute's silence: audio pioneer Ray Dolby dies aged 80". The Independent. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  9. ^ "Audio pioneer Ray Dolby dies aged 80". BBC News. September 13, 2013. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  10. ^ a b "AES Awards". Aes.org. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  11. ^ a b "Academy Awards Database Academy | Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences". Awardsdatabase.oscars.org. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  12. ^ "SMPTE Progress Medal Past Recipients". Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
  13. ^ "The Eduard Rhein Ring of Honor Recipients". Eduard Rhein Foundation. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
  14. ^ "Technical GRAMMY Award". GRAMMY.org. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  15. ^ "Medals, Technical Field Awards, and Recognitions". IEEE. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  16. ^ "Ray Dolby Receives Charles F. Jenkins Lifetime Achievement Award". Retrieved 2013-09-16.
  17. ^ "Tupac Shakur, Phil Hartman to receive Walk of Fame stars - see list - 06/20/2013 | Entertainment News from". OnTheRedCarpet.com. 2013-06-20. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  18. ^ "Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jay Leno, Among Six New Hall of Fame Inductees" Check |url= value (help).

External links