The National Academy of Engineering awarded the 2012 Charles Stark Draper Prize to George Heilmeier and three others “for the engineering development of the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) that is utilized in billions of consumer and professional devices.”

It was in 1963, a year after he received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Princeton and while employed at RCA’s Sarnoff Research Center, when Heilmeier and a co-worker published a report suggesting the use of liquid crystal materials for display. Although considered for television, the method was used at first in digital clocks and watches, a much simpler and quicker application. Improved versions of the original method have been developed since then and are widely used.

Heilmeier was promoted to head of solid state device research at RCA in 1966. Four years later he was chosen as a White House Fellow, working for the Secretary of Defense. Further in his career, Heilmeier became Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the recipient of two Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service medals. He joined Texas Instruments in 1977, holding the position of vice president of corporate research, development, engineering and strategic planning, and advancing to chief technology officer. Beginning in 1991, Heilmeier served as president and CEO of Bellcore (formerly Bell Communications Research), then chairman.