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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications


Reed College will open the 2000-01 academic year with convocation ceremonies at
10 a.m. on Tuesday, August 22, in the Kaul Auditorium on the Reed campus. The Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology will be given to physicist and lifelong inventor James T. Russell, a 1953 Reed graduate and holder of more than 50 patents who is best known as the creator of the optical data storage and recording technology that contributed significantly to the development of the CD and CD-ROM.

The program also includes an address, "The Education of Telemachus," by Walter Englert III, Omar and Althea Hoskins Professor of Classical Studies and H umanities.

The Vollum Award was created in 1975 as a tribute to the late C. Howard Vollum, a 1936 Reed graduate and lifelong friend of the college. Winners are selected for the perseverance, fresh approach to problems and solutions, and creative imagination that characterized Vollum's career. The award winner receives $2,000 and a silver medal encased in a walnut triptych. The Vollum Award was endowed in 1975 by a grant from the Millicent Foundation, now a part of the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

Music had long been important to James T. Russell, who worked summers during his Reed years at a radio station in Bremerton, Washington, as installation engineer, chief engineer, and disk jockey. After graduating from Reed in physics and working in the nuclear power industry, Russell continued to think about new ways to record and play music, which led to his breakthrough invention of compact disk technology.

During the 27 years he worked as a scientist for General Electric and Battelle in connection with the Hanford Nuclear Plant, Russell devised countless instruments and systems, some with applications for the entertainment business. Many of his inventions involved the use of digital and optical technologies. His innovations included the first electron beam welder and the first use of a color TV screen and keyboard as a reactor control interface.

Russell introduced his thinking about optical data storage while he was working as senior scientist for Battelle, constructing prototypes of a digital-to-optical recording and playback system and dispersing information about the potential of this technology. He found more interest in this work outside the company, however, and joined a firm that was founded to develop his ideas as vice president for research and member of the board. There he designed the system architecture for an audio player and directed the development of the hardware and the storage media. The technology was later sold to a company that licensed his optical patents that led to the compact disk as we know it today.

Russell continued to originate revolutionary systems, founding Ioptics, Inc,. in 1990 to develop and market his invention of a high-speed optical data recorder and player that uses no moving parts. Since 1985 he has also worked as a consultant in the design and development of optical devices and electronic instruments. Russell received the IR 100 Award in 1974 for optical recording technology.

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