Friedrich Reinitzer (LCD display)

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Leonardo da Vinci

Friedrich Reinitzer and Otto Lehmann

Like many other technological gadgets, modern LCD technology is not an invention of a single man and has not happened in a year or two.

In 1888 the Austrian botanist and chemist Friedrich Richard Kornelius Reinitzer (1857-1927) (see the left image), experimenting with cholesteryl benzoate extracted from carrots, discovered a strange behavior of what would later be called liquid crystals. He published his findings at a meeting of the Vienna Chemical Society in May 1888. Later for the explanation of their behavior he collaborated with the german physicist Otto Lehmann (1855-1922) (see the right image), who actually devised the name “liquid crystals” in his 1904 work, named “Flüssige Kristalle” (Liquid Crystals), an in-depth study of the phenomena with many illustrations of the equipment used, drawings of the crystal structures and photographs taken through the microscope. Their discovery received plenty of attention at the time, but no practical uses were apparent and the interest dropped soon.

In 1911 the french professor of mineralogy Charles-Victor Mauguin (1878–1958) made the first experiments on liquids crystals, confined between plates in thin layers.

The first practical application of liquid crystals happened in 1936 when the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company patented its Liquid Crystal Light Valve.

Sharp's EL-805, the first portable calculator
Sharp’s EL-805, the first portable calculator, 1973

In the 1960s several other inventors and companies worked on the development of LCDs. In 1967 American inventor and business entrepreneur James Lee Fergason (1934-2008) discovered the “twisted nematic” LCD and produced the first practical displays. In 1968 the American RCA Corporation produced an LCD display, based on the dynamic scattering display (DSM) of liquid crystals. In 1971 the company ILIXCO (now LXD Incorporated) produced the first LCDs. In 1972, the first active-matrix liquid crystal display panel was produced in the USA by the physicist Tamás Peter Brody. In 1973 the Japanese company Sharp produced EL-805, the first portable calculator, using a DCM LCD screen. In 1979, Walter Eric Spear and Peter LeComber created the first color display using a lightweight thin film transfer (TFT) LCD. In 1985, Seiko-Epson produced the first commercial LCD color TV set (with a 2-inch view).

The modern liquid crystal display (LCD) is a flat and thin panel, used for displaying information on watches, phones, monitors for computers, televisions, and numerous other electronic devices. Among its major features are its lightweight construction, portability, and ability to be produced in much larger screen sizes than are practical for the construction of cathode ray tube (CRT) display technology.