DAVID THOMAS

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THOMAS--David Gilbert,

Researcher, Scientist, Executive, Volunteer, Loving Father, Litchfield. Research scientist and Executive Director at Bell Laboratories for 38 years, died on Saturday, May 9 at the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, Ct. He was 86 years old. Mr. Thomas was born on August 4, 1928 in London, England, and was the son of Alan Thomas and Elsa (Auger) Thomas. He married in 1957 and was the beloved husband of June M. Thomas. His United States citizenship was granted in 1960. The educational years of his youth were spent at Harrow School, in England, and at The Putney School in Vermont. He received his BA, MA and PhD in Chemistry from Oxford University where he finished his educational studies in 1952. Afterwards, he worked as a researcher for the Royal Military College in Kingston, Canada. While at a musical concert in New Jersey, Mr. Thomas met a scientist who told him about a place called "Bell Laboratories." He was intrigued and began working there in 1954. Once employed, his scientific mind flourished, and for the next 38 years he worked to create technological advancements that have affected our telecommunication abilities to this day. The first research he did at Bell Labs led him to the solid- state chemistry of semiconducting materials. Later, he directed his research toward the optical properties of semiconductors, including their luminescence. After becoming Head of the Semiconductor Electronics Research Department in 1962, Mr. Thomas conducted studies leading to the development of gallium phosphide light-emitting diodes, which were used extensively as indicator lights of maintenance equipment, control panels, and some new multiline telephones and business telephone consoles. A practical application at the time was the "Princess" phone which lit up with a green glow when lifted from its handset. In 1969, Mr. Thomas moved from research into development and became the Executive Director of the Electronic Devices, Process and Materials Division responsible for the development of electronic devices, including their materials and fabrication. During this same year, he was a co- recipient, along with John Hopfield, of the Oliver E. Buckley Solid State Physics Prize of the American Physical Society for his theoretical and experimental work related to the interaction of light and solids. Mr. Thomas was also the holder of seven patents, one of which was awarded to him and his colleague Willard S. Boyle. This patent helped lead to the development of the semiconductor injection laser, which is found in many electronic appliances. In 1976, Mr. Thomas became Executive Director of Bell Laboratories' Transmission Systems Division. His chief activity here was to oversee the development and design of a variety of transmission systems, and to assist in their introduction into manufacture. These systems included digital fiber optic systems for terrestrial use, and also submarine fiber optic systems for transoceanic use. The 1988 submarine fiber optic system that Mr. Thomas worked on was designed to increase phone transmissions from the United States, England and France to 40,000 simultaneous phone calls. One of the challenges that arose were sharks who, sensing the magnetic field created by the cable's high voltage, bit them. Thicker cable were subsequently designed to help with this problem. Mr. Thomas continued to work at Bell Laboratories until 1992. He and June then moved to Dallas, Texas where he briefly worked for a small electronics company and, in 1994, he began his retirement. Not one prone to idleness, he embraced the computer age with zeal by building his own and by using his skills to help organizations computerize their data records. These organizations included the Dallas District Attorney's office Division of Family Violence and, after moving to Litchfield, Ct., in 2002, the Town of Litchfield's Assessor's Office, the Litchfield Historical Society, the Greenwood Counseling Center, the Warner Theater, and the Susan B. Anthony Project. He also made annual treks to Avon, Ct. where he would help people to file their tax returns. Mr. Thomas was an avid reader and could be politically vocal about supporting liberal policies. He very much enjoyed the beauty and solitude of the nearby White Memorial Woods. Mr. Thomas was predeceased by his loving wife, June, in January of this year. He is survived by his beloved children Virginia S. Thomas of New York, New York and Victoria C. Thomas of New Canaan, Ct., as well as, granddaughters Eliza K. Lupone and Madeline J. Lupone. His brother, Gerry Thomas, resides in London, England. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in memory of David G. Thomas, c/o Development Office, 540 Litchfield St., Torrington, Ct. 06790. Kindly visit www.rowefuneralhome.net to send the family an online condolence.

Published in The New York Times on May 17, 2015