Open main menu

Ray Milton Dolby OBE (/ˈdlbi, ˈdɒl-/; 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 and was the founder of Dolby Laboratories.

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

(1933-01-18)January 18, 1933
DiedSeptember 12, 2013(2013-09-12) (aged 80)
Dagmar Bäumert (m. 1966)
Engineering career
DisciplineElectrical engineering, physics
InstitutionsDolby Laboratories
ProjectsDolby NR
Significant designSurround sound
Military career
Service/branchU.S. Army
Years of serviceearly 1950s


Early lifeEdit

Dolby was born in Portland, Oregon, the son of Esther Eufemia (née Strand) and Earl Milton Dolby, an inventor. He attended Sequoia High School (class of 1951) in Redwood City, California.[3] As a teenager in the decade following World War II, he held part-time and summer jobs at Ampex in Redwood City,[4] 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.[6] 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 noise-reduction system, a form of audio signal processing. The analog Dolby B noise-reduction system works by compressing and increasing the volume of low-level high-frequency sounds during recording and correspondingly reverses the process during playback. This high-frequency round turn reduces the audible level of tape hiss.[7]

His first U.S. patent was not filed until 1969, four years later. The filter was first used by Decca Records in the UK.[7]

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.[8] Dolby was survived by his wife Dagmar, two sons, Tom and David, and four grandchildren.[9] Kevin Yeaman, president and chief executive of Dolby Laboratories, said "Today we lost a friend, mentor and true visionary."[9] 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."[10]

In his will, Dolby bequeathed more than $52 million to Pembroke College, Cambridge, the largest single donation received by the University's current fundraising campaign.[11] In December 2017 it was announced that his family has donated a further £85m from his estate to Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory. [12]

Awards and honorsEdit

U.S. patentsEdit


  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. Detroit: Gale. 1986. K1618001948.
  3. ^ Bishop, Shaun (2009-03-27). "Sequoia High School alumni inducted into Hall of Fame". The Mercury News. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  4. ^ [1] Biography of Ray Dolby
  5. ^ a b c Wolpin, Stewart (Fall 1994). "The Race to Video" (PDF). American Heritage of Invention & Technology. 10 (2). ISSN 8756-7296.
  6. ^ Singer, Natasha (12 September 2013). "Ray Dolby, Who Put Moviegoers in the Middle of It, Is Dead at 80". The New York Times. p. A20.
  7. ^ a b Williamson, Marcus (13 September 2013). "Ray Dolby obituary: Inventor whose noise-reduction technology transformed sound reproduction". The Independent.
  8. ^ "Founder and Director Emeritus of Dolby Laboratories Dies at Age 80". Dolby Laboratories. September 12, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Vincent, James (September 13, 2013). "A minute's silence: audio pioneer Ray Dolby dies aged 80". The Independent.
  10. ^ "Audio pioneer Ray Dolby dies aged 80". BBC News. September 13, 2013.
  11. ^ "American inventor bequeaths largest-ever donation to Cambridge's Pembroke College". Cambridge News. 3 December 2015. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  12. ^ "Dolby estate gives Cambridge University Cavendish lab £85m". BBC News. December 6, 2017.
  13. ^ a b "AES Awards". Audio Engineering Society. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Academy Awards Database". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on September 13, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  15. ^ "SMPTE Progress Medal Past Recipients". Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  16. ^ "The Eduard Rhein Ring of Honor Recipients". Eduard Rhein Foundation. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved April 20, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  17. ^ "Technical GRAMMY Award". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. 2010-10-19. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  18. ^ "Medals, Technical Field Awards, and Recognitions". Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  19. ^ Benzuly, Sarah (September 1, 2003). "Ray Dolby Receives Emmy Engineering Award". Mix.
  20. ^ "Ray Dolby is inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. March 8, 2014.
  21. ^ "Ray Dolby was Honored with a Posthumous Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". Hollywood Walk of Fame. January 22, 2015.

External linksEdit