Marvin Camras (EE '40, M.S. '42)

How Sweet the Sound

From high-volume decoy attacks during World War II to the magnetic tape that serves as a basis for most forms of media, Marvin Camras (EE ’40, M.S. ’42) captivated the eyes and ears of the world through his innovative contributions to audio and video recording.

His engineering propensity began at the age of four when he built a flashlight. Three years later, he constructed a transmitter. During his junior year at IIT, he presented his first invention—a magnetic wire recorder. His work caught the faculty’s attention, and he was offered a job to develop this technology at what is now the IIT Research Institute (IITRI).

In 1944, Camras was awarded a patent on “method and means of magnetic recording,” an early model of tape recording. He went on to innovate multi-track recording, magnetic soundtracks for movies, and a prototype video tape recorder. His work even led to magnetic credit card strips, among other commonplace items.

Camras received numerous awards for his refinement of the everyday technology we have come to rely on. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1985. In 1990, he was presented the National Medal of Technology by President George H. W. Bush—the highest honor bestowed by the President for technological achievement. He concluded his 50-year career at IIT and IITRI in 1994, having been awarded more than 500 U.S. and international patents.

In 1996, IIT launched the Camras Scholars Program to attract the best and brightest high school students to careers in engineering and to honor Marvin Camras—the Father of Magnetic Tape Recording. Camras had the ingenuity, and IIT had the resources to help honor him.

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