Skip to main content

Sound pioneer Ray Dolby dies at 80

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
September 13, 2013 -- Updated 0522 GMT (1322 HKT)
Click through to see<a href='http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/world/obituaries-2013'> people who passed away</a> in 2013. Click through to see people who passed away in 2013.
HIDE CAPTION
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
People we lost in 2013
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pioneer in surround sound, noise reduction dies at 80
  • Ray Dolby revolutionized audio recordings to make them clearer, crisper
  • He founded Dolby Laboratories in 1965
  • Dolby thought of himself as an adventurer first

(CNN) -- Ray Dolby, the American inventor who changed the way people listen to sound in their homes, on their phones and in cinemas, died Thursday in San Francisco.

Dolby was 80.

The founder of Dolby Laboratories had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for a number of years, and in July was diagnosed with acute leukemia.

"Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary," said Kevin Yeaman, the company's president and CEO.

Dolby founded the company in London in 1965, and in the following decades it built on his pioneering work in surround sound and noise reduction, which removed the annoying "hiss" from audio recordings.

Dolby holds more than 50 U.S. patents for many state-of-the-art technologies. Now based in San Francisco, the company has earned dozens of industry plaudits including 19 Academy and 13 Emmy Awards.

Dolby's work earned so much admiration from the film industry that last year the Hollywood landmark known as the "home of the Academy Awards" was renamed Dolby Theatre. After each annual star-studded ceremony, the world's leading actors and actresses toast the occasion in the Ray Dolby Ballroom.

"With Dolby Laboratories, his passion for sound led to innovations that have changed the way we listen to music and movies for nearly 50 years," said Neil Portnow, President and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Inventions were part of my life, but they didn't overtake everything that I was doing.
Ray Dolby

"His technologies have become an essential part of the creative process for recording artists and filmmakers, ensuring his remarkable legacy for generations to come."

Mix tape, anyone? The cassette turns 50

While his work earned him fame and fortune, Dolby considered himself an adventurer at heart.

"I wanted the experience of traveling to many parts of the world. Inventions were part of my life, but they didn't overtake everything that I was doing," he said in quotes released by the company.

His wife of 47 years, Dagmar, described him as "generous, patient, intellectually honest" and a fantastic role model for their two sons, Tom and David.

"I think he was the happiest when we would be on the boat, and the waves got really high and the weather forecast was really bad -- that was all the more challenge for him," she said.

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

Dolby was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1933 and started his career at Ampex Corp., where he led the development of the electronic aspects of the Ampex videotape recording system.

He earned his first degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University, before moving to Cambridge in the UK to study physics. While there, he became the first American to be named a fellow at Pembroke College.

After graduating, Dolby moved to India for a two-year stint as a United Nations adviser before returning to London to set up his company. In 2004, Dolby was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the U.S. and the Royal Academy of Engineers in the UK.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
The possibility of pockets of air remaining within the hull of the sunken South Korean ferry offers hope to rescuers -- and relatives -- say experts.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Despite hundreds still missing after the sinking of a South Korean ferry, reports of text messages keep hope alive that there may be survivors yet.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2131 GMT (0531 HKT)
Russia's propaganda worse now than at height of Cold War, says Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at AEI.
Sanctions imposed against Russia are working as a deterrent, President Barack Obama and other White House senior administration officials said.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
A lack of progress in the search for MH370 is angering the families of victims.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
The searches for the Titanic and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 share common techniques.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
This year's Pyongyang marathon was open to foreign amateurs.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
How are police preparing for this year's 26.2-mile marathon, which takes place Monday?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
Katrina Karkazis
Romance is hard, for anyone. For people with intersex traits, love poses unique challenges.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2126 GMT (0526 HKT)
The "kill switch," a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT