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James Hillier

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Citizenship  Canadian American
Name  James Hillier
Nationality  Canadian
Role  Inventor

Institutions  RCA
Education  University of Toronto
Alma mater  University of Toronto
James Hillier wwwjameshillierfoundationcomimagesjamesjpg
Born  August 22, 1915 Brantford, Ontario, Canada (1915-08-22)
Known for  Commercializing the electron microscope President of the Electron Microscope Society of America (1945)
Died  January 15, 2007, Princeton, New Jersey, United States
Awards  Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research

Notable awards  IEEE Founders Medal

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James Hillier, (August 22, 1915 – January 15, 2007) was a Canadian-American scientist and inventor who designed and built, with Albert Prebus, the first successful high-resolution electron microscope in North America in 1938.


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Born in Brantford, Ontario, the son of James and Ethel (Cooke) Hillier, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Physics (1937), Master of Arts (1938), and a Ph.D (1941) from the University of Toronto, where, as a graduate student, he completed a prototype of the electron microscope that had been invented by Ernst Ruska. This transmission electron microscope was used as a prototype for later electron microscopes.

In 1941, he went to the United States of America and joined the Radio Corporation of America in Camden, New Jersey. He became General Manager, RCA Laboratories (1957); Vice President, RCA Laboratories (1958); Vice President, Research and Engineering (1968); Executive Vice President, Research and Engineering (1969); and Executive Vice President and Chief Scientist (1976). New technologies developed during his tenure include the system that became RCA SelectaVision. (Note: RCA Laboratories, located in Princeton, NJ, became independent of RCA as a result of the corporate take-over by General Electric in 1986 and became Sarnoff Corporation, a subsidiary of SRI International through 2011, when it was absorbed by SRI.) Hillier spent many years refining the electron microscope and marketing it to research laboratories and universities, receiving a total of 41 patents for devices and processes.

After retiring from RCA in 1977, Dr. Hillier advised on the role of technology in the Third World and promoted science education. Although he became a U.S. citizen in 1945, Hillier remained involved with the Brantford community throughout his lifetime. The James Hillier Foundation, established in 1993, awards annual scholarships to Brant County students pursuing education in science.

In 1936, he married Florence Marjory Bell, a union that lasted until Florence's death in 1992. They had two sons: James Robert Hillier and William Wynship Hillier.

On January 15, 2007, Hillier died in Princeton, New Jersey due to a stroke.


  • In 1950, the James Hillier Public School in Brantford, Ontario was opened.
  • In 1960, he was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research.
  • In 1975, he was awarded the IRI Medal from the Industrial Research Institute
  • In 1980, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • In 1981, he received the Founders Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
  • In 1997, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
  • References

    James Hillier Wikipedia

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