Richard Francis Lyon

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Richard Francis Lyon
Dick Lyon.jpg
Born 1952 (age 64–65)
Nationality American
Alma mater California Institute of Technology
Stanford University
Known for
Awards IEEE Fellow (2003)
Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society (2005)
ACM Fellow (2010)
Scientific career
Fields Electrical engineering
Institutions Xerox PARC

Richard Francis Lyon (born 1952) is an American inventor, scientist, and engineer, who invented the optical mouse.[1][2][3] He has worked in many aspects of signal processing and was a co-founder of Foveon Inc., a digital camera and image sensor company.

Early life and education[edit]

Lyon grew up in El Paso, Texas as the third of nine children.[4] His father was an engineer for the El Paso Electric Company and encouraged the family to explore their interests in electronics, including bringing home an early FORTRAN programming manual before computers were a common household feature.[5] Lyon attended Caltech for his bachelors degree in electrical engineering, graduating in 1974. While at Caltech, Lyon worked with Carver Mead and John Pierce. He also took a summer internship at Bell Labs, where he developed digital signal processing hardware for audio applications.[6] He then enrolled in the graduate program at Stanford University with the intention to get his PhD, but left with his masters degree in 1975 to go to work in Silicon Valley.[5]


After Stanford, Lyon worked at Stanford Telecommunications, a small start up company developing signal sets for navigation satellites and space shuttle communication systems. During a return visit to Caltech around two and a half years after graduating, he ran into Carver Mead, who was hosting Ivan Sutherland and Bert Sutherland to develop some collaborations between Caltech and Xerox PARC and to develop a computer science department. Lyon joined Xerox PARC in 1977 after interviewing on invitation by Bert Sutherland.[5]

Lyon started working at Xerox PARC under George White to build custom microchips for speech processing and digital filtering. Within the year, White left to manage the west coast laboratory of the ITT Defense Communications Division in San Diego, leaving Lyon in charge of the project. During this period, he took a course at Stanford on biological information processing and wrote his term paper outlining an for approach speech recognition through a signal processing model of hearing.[7] The paper became the basis for his career in hearing research.[5]

In 1980, Lyon invented the optical mouse. Although several people at PARC had filed invention proposals for an optical mouse, no one had built one or filed a patent for one.[5] His design involved defining screen location using an adaptation of optical lateral inhibition to achieve a wide dynamic range.[8]

In 1980, Lyon was one of the "Marty randoms" recruited by Jay Martin Tenenbaum to join Schlumberger Palo Alto Research. There, he led the speech recognition project.[5]

In 1988, Lyon moved to the Apple Advanced Technology Group and led the Perception Systems group, where he worked mainly on auditory and sound processing. During this period he published a paper with Carver Mead describing an analog cochlea which modeled the propagation of sound in the inner ear and the conversion of acoustic energy into neural representations.[9][10] The paper received the Best Paper Award from the IEEE Signal Processing Society in 1990 and formed a foundation for later work applying such models to hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other speech recognition hardware devices.[11][12] With Malcolm Slaney, he developed the "cochleagram" representation for visualizing and processing sound for computational auditory scene analysis.[13] With Larry Yaeger, Brandyn Webb, and others, he also developed the handwriting recognition system Inkwell for the Apple Newton.[14][15]

During Apple's period of decline in the late 1990s, over half of the Advanced Technology Group was laid off as part of organizational restructuring, including Lyon and his team.[5] He began working with Carver Mead and Richard B. Merrill to develop digital color photography and co-founded Foveon as a spin-off company from National Semiconductor and Synaptics.[6] At Foveon, Lyon helped develop a three-CCD camera and later the Foveon X3 sensor, which placed three stacked photodiodes onto a single chip.[16][17] In 2005, Mead, Lyon, and Merrill received the Progress Medal of the Royal Photographic Society for the Foveon X3 sensor.[18]

In 2006, Lyon returned to corporate research, moving to Google after briefly considering Yahoo. His research at Google has involved managing the camera development for Google Street View and sound recognition for various Google products. Most recently, he wrote a book on human and machine hearing and taught a course in 2010 at Stanford University.[5]

Inventions and research[edit]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Lyon is married to Margaret Asprey; they have two children.[4]


  1. ^ Markoff, John (21 Feb 1983). "In Focus: The Mouse That Rolled". InfoWorld (Volume 5, No. 8). InfoWorld Media Group. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Sol Sherr (2 December 2012). Input Devices. Elsevier Science. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-323-15643-1. 
  3. ^ DeCarlo, Matthew (2011-12-20). "Xerox PARC: A Brief Nod to the Minds Behind Laser Printing, Ethernet, the GUI and More". TechSpot. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  4. ^ a b Asprey, Margaret Williams (2014-02-01). A True Nuclear Family. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 9781490726656. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Steinbach, Günter (10 October 2016). "Oral History of Richard Lyon" (PDF). Computer History Museum. 
  6. ^ a b Gilder, George (2006). The Silicon Eye: Microchip Swashbucklers and the Future of High-Tech Innovation (1st ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-32841-7. 
  7. ^ Lyon, Richard F. (11 July 1978). "A Signal-Processing Model of Hearing" (PDF). Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. 
  8. ^ Kisačanin, Branislav; Gelautz, Margrit (2014). Advances in Embedded Computer Vision. Springer. ISBN 9783319093871. 
  9. ^ Lyon, R. F.; Mead, C. (1988). "An analog electronic cochlea". IEEE Trans. on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing. 36: 1119–1134. doi:10.1109/29.1639. 
  10. ^ Slaney, Malcolm (1988). "Lyon's Cochlear Model" (PDF). Apple Computer, Inc. 
  11. ^ "Carver Mead Honors and Awards". California Institute of Technology. Retrieved 22 October 2017. 
  12. ^ Hamilton, Tara Julia (6 February 2009). "The silicon cochlea: 20 years on" (PDF). The Neuromorphic Engineer. Institute of Neuromorphic Engineering. doi:10.2417/1200902.1416. 
  13. ^ Slaney, Malcolm; Lyon, Richard F. (1993). "On the Importance of Time - A Temporal Representation of Sound". In Crawford, M. Visual Representations of Speech Signals (PDF). New York: John Wiley. 
  14. ^ Markoff, John (13 November 1995). "Apple Gives Messagepad a Tuneup". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Yaeger, Larry S.; Webb, Brandyn J.; Lyon, Richard F. (15 March 1998). "Combining Neural Networks and Context-Driven Search for Online, Printed Handwriting Recognition in the NEWTON". AI Magazine. 19 (1): 73. doi:10.1609/aimag.v19i1.1355. ISSN 0738-4602. 
  16. ^ Lyon, Richard F.; Hubel, Paul M. "Eyeing the Camera: into the Next Century" (PDF). Foveon. 
  17. ^ Lyon, R.F. (March 2000). "Prism-Based Color Separation for Professional Digital Photography" (PDF). Proceedings of the Image Processing, Image Quality, Image Capture, Systems Conference. Portland, OR, USA: 50–54. 
  18. ^ "Progress Medal". Royal Photographic Society. Retrieved 31 October 2017. 
  19. ^ Richard F. Lyon, "The Optical Mouse, and an Architectural Methodology for Smart Digital Sensors", Invited Paper, CMU Conference on VLSI Systems and Computations, Pittsburgh (Kung, Sproull, and Steele, editors), Computer Science Press, October 1981.
  20. ^ U.S. Patent 4,521,772: Lyon, "Cursor Control Device", Jun. 4, 1985.
  21. ^ U.S. Patent 4,521,773: Lyon, "Imaging Array", Jun. 4, 1985.
  22. ^ Richard F. Lyon and James J. Spilker, Jr., "Multisatellite Signal Simulators for the Global Positioning System", National Telecommunications conference, Dallas, Texas, December 1976.
  23. ^ U.S. Patent 4,494,021: Bell, Lyon, and Borriello, "Self-calibrated Clock and Timing Signal Generator for MOS/VLSI Circuitry", Jan. 15, 1985.
  24. ^ U.S. Patent 4,513,427: Borriello, Lyon, and Bell, "Data and Clock Recovery System for Data Communication Controller", Apr. 23, 1985.
  25. ^ U.S. Patent 4,796,227: Lyon and Schediwy, "Computer Memory System", Jan. 3, 1989.
  26. ^ Ivan Sutherland, Bob Sproull, and David Harris (1999). Logical Effort: Designing Fast CMOS Circuits. Morgan Kaufmann. ISBN 1-55860-557-6. 
  27. ^ Richard F. Lyon, "A Computational Model of Filtering, Detection, and Compression in the Cochlea", Proceedings IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing, Paris, May 1982.
  28. ^ U.S. Patent 6,078,429: Lyon, "Color Separating Prism Having Violet Light Component in Red Channel", Jun. 20, 2000.
  29. ^ "IEEE Fellows for 2003". 
  30. ^ Mark Peters (6 November 2005). "Royal Photographic Society Award for Foveon sensor". 
  31. ^
  32. ^ Gilder, George F. (2005-01-01). The Silicon Eye. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393057638. 

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