Ray Dolby: Inventing the Future of Entertainment

  • It's the rare person who can travel between the artistic and scientific worlds with ease. Ray Dolby connected the two with inventions that expanded the creative possibilities for musicians, filmmakers, and other artists. 

  • Ray Dolby: The Artist’s Inventor

  • The Power of Sound

    When Ray Dolby founded Dolby Laboratories in 1965, movies and television featured only one channel of sound, and record producers were limited to a handful of audio tracks. Much of what happened since then to improve the sound of entertainment can be traced to the efforts of Ray Dolby—not just his technical innovations but the impact they had on artists.

    "Dolby's work changed the way movies were made," said director Philip Kaufman, "because sound became a powerful artistic element, and you could do things with sound that had never been done before."

    A Sense of Uncertainty

    Ray Dolby was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1933 and later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. From 1949 to 1957, he worked on various audio and instrumentation projects at Ampex Corporation, where he led the development of the electronic aspects of the Ampex® videotape recording system. In 1957, he graduated from Stanford University and left for England on a Marshall Scholarship to continue his studies at Cambridge University. He received a PhD in physics from Cambridge in 1961.

    Dolby had a desire to explore the unknown, a quality he shared with the artists who would later embrace his technologies.

  • WoF Star

    Ray Dolby Honored with Hollywood Star

    On January 22, Ray Dolby, audio pioneer and founder of Dolby Laboratories, was honored with a star on the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.

  • Innovation at Dolby

    Learn more about what Dolby is working on at the labs and behind the scenes. 

  • "To be an inventor, you have to be willing to live with a sense of uncertainty, to work in this darkness and grope towards an answer, to put up with anxiety about whether there is an answer."

    Ray Dolby

  • Ray built Dolby Laboratories into a global company.

  • "Ray's pioneering work in sound played a pivotal role in allowing Star Wars to be the truly immersive experience I had always dreamed it would be."

    George Lucas, Director

    • Pushing the Limits

      In his lifetime, Dolby would earn more than 50 US patents, and the company he started would flourish as a place where scientists and engineers push the limits of sight and sound. Since 1965, thousands of films and billions of products have featured Dolby® technologies.

      Ray Dolby died on September 12, 2013, in San Francisco at the age of 80.

      Awards and Honors

      The awards and honors Ray Dolby received during his lifetime include:

      • The National Medal of Technology from President Clinton (1997)
      • Honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II (1987)
      • Honorary Doctorate of Science from Cambridge University (1997)
      • Honorary Doctorate from the University of York (1999)
      • Oscar® statuette from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (1989)
      • Oscar Class II (plaque) from A.M.P.A.S. (1979)
      • Several Emmys® from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, including for the invention of the Ampex videotape recorder and his work for Dolby Laboratories (1989, 2005)
      • Grammy® from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (1995)
      • Berlin Film Festival Berlinale Camera Award (2012)
      • San Francisco Film Society George Gund III Award (2013)
      • Audio Engineering Society (AES) Silver (1971) and Gold (1992) Medals
      • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Edison Medal (2010)