i3 - November/December 2016 - 47

Joel S. Spira
Founder, Lutron Electronics

Not so long ago, there were only two ways to control an incandescent light:
you could turn it on, or you could turn it off.

DONNA H CHIARELLI

L

ighting control
was revolutionized
in 1959 when Joel
S. Spira invented
the first solid-state electronic
dimmer. In 1961, Spira and
his wife, Ruth, founded
Lutron (a combination of
Lumen and Electronics) in
Eastern Pennsylvania, and
today, it has grown into a
global leader in lighting and
shade control solutions.
Lutron products are found in
modest homes to luxurious
palaces, universities, hotels,
museums and awardwinning office buildings.
Spira was fascinated not
only by the physics of light,
but also by its psychological,
emotional and technical
characteristics. Someone
once showed him a peasized solid-state device
called a silicon controlled
rectifier (SCR). The SCR
worked by efficiently
chopping out a varying
portion of the 60-cycle sine
wave. While serving in the
Navy, Spira worked with
vacuum tubes for advanced
radar that was a predecessor
of the SCR, but much larger
- about the size of a milk
carton. He was immediately
struck by this device's
capability for efficiently
controlling electrical power.
Tinkering later in his New
York City apartment, Spira
realized that he could use
this new SCR device to dim
C TA . t e c h / i 3

incandescent light bulbs,
and it could fit in a standard
wallbox. He also discovered
that solid-state dimming
would save energy, a benefit
that then-existing dimming
products didn't offer.
Spira received his first
dimming device patent on
May 1, 1962, and went on
to be awarded 325 more
patents. His innovations
went beyond the technology
and physics of light. Spira
added the ideas of comfort,
control and enhancing one's
home or office environment.
Indeed, his early ads for
the original Capri dimmer
touted its ability to enhance
the ambiance of a room
by "dialing romance." He
obsessed on aesthetics,
ease of use, cognition and
ergonomics of the analog,
then digital, man-machine
interfaces for Lutron
products.

Spira's inventions ran
the gamut, improving the
efficiency and performance
of halogen, fluorescent and
LED lighting - from linearslide dimmers to systems,
and then smart buildings
and residences. These
innovations have become
the recognized standard
in quality lighting controls
and battery-powered
window shades, and most
recently "smart" lighting
control products and
systems for the connected
controls market. Spira also
innovated mass production
techniques, known as
mass customization, which
enabled modular yet
customized designs to be
efficiently produced in small
production runs.
Beyond innovative
lighting controls, Spira was
committed to making a
significant impact on the

economy, the environment
and technology. "That's
the difference between a
company that creates a
fad product that delivers
a short-term benefit and
a company that creates
wealth for the
long-term," he said.
Spira was presented with
the Leonardo da Vinci Award
by the American Society
of Mechanical Engineers in
2000, the National Electrical
Manufacturers Association
Bernard H. Falk Award, the
CEDIA Lifetime Achievement
Award in 2010, and the
Illuminating Engineering
Society Medal in 2011. Spira
and his wife also funded
the Ruth and Joel Spira
Excellence in Teaching
Awards at a number of
colleges and universities
including Carnegie Mellon,
Cornell, M.I.T., Penn State,
Michigan, Notre Dame, and
his alma mater, Purdue.
In 2010, Spira donated
some of the company's
early inventions including
prototypes of the Capri
dimmer and his original
inventor's notebook to the
Smithsonian's National
Museum of American History
in Washington, D.C.
Spira passed away at age
88 on April 8, 2015, and is
survived by his wife, Ruth,
and his three daughters,
Susan Hakkarainen, Lily
Malanczuk and Juno Spira. n
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016

47


http://CTA.tech/i3

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - November/December 2016

Contents
i3 - November/December 2016 - Cover1
i3 - November/December 2016 - Cover2
i3 - November/December 2016 - Contents
i3 - November/December 2016 - 2
i3 - November/December 2016 - 3
i3 - November/December 2016 - 4
i3 - November/December 2016 - 5
i3 - November/December 2016 - 6
i3 - November/December 2016 - 7
i3 - November/December 2016 - 8
i3 - November/December 2016 - 9
i3 - November/December 2016 - 10
i3 - November/December 2016 - 11
i3 - November/December 2016 - 12
i3 - November/December 2016 - 13
i3 - November/December 2016 - 14
i3 - November/December 2016 - 15
i3 - November/December 2016 - 16
i3 - November/December 2016 - 17
i3 - November/December 2016 - 18
i3 - November/December 2016 - 19
i3 - November/December 2016 - 20
i3 - November/December 2016 - 21
i3 - November/December 2016 - 22
i3 - November/December 2016 - 23
i3 - November/December 2016 - 24
i3 - November/December 2016 - 25
i3 - November/December 2016 - 26
i3 - November/December 2016 - 27
i3 - November/December 2016 - 28
i3 - November/December 2016 - 29
i3 - November/December 2016 - 30
i3 - November/December 2016 - 31
i3 - November/December 2016 - 32
i3 - November/December 2016 - 33
i3 - November/December 2016 - 34
i3 - November/December 2016 - 35
i3 - November/December 2016 - 36
i3 - November/December 2016 - 37
i3 - November/December 2016 - 38
i3 - November/December 2016 - 39
i3 - November/December 2016 - 40
i3 - November/December 2016 - 41
i3 - November/December 2016 - 42
i3 - November/December 2016 - 43
i3 - November/December 2016 - 44
i3 - November/December 2016 - 45
i3 - November/December 2016 - 46
i3 - November/December 2016 - 47
i3 - November/December 2016 - 48
i3 - November/December 2016 - 49
i3 - November/December 2016 - 50
i3 - November/December 2016 - 51
i3 - November/December 2016 - 52
i3 - November/December 2016 - 53
i3 - November/December 2016 - 54
i3 - November/December 2016 - 55
i3 - November/December 2016 - 56
i3 - November/December 2016 - 57
i3 - November/December 2016 - 58
i3 - November/December 2016 - 59
i3 - November/December 2016 - 60
i3 - November/December 2016 - 61
i3 - November/December 2016 - 62
i3 - November/December 2016 - 63
i3 - November/December 2016 - 64
i3 - November/December 2016 - 65
i3 - November/December 2016 - 66
i3 - November/December 2016 - 67
i3 - November/December 2016 - 68
i3 - November/December 2016 - Cover3
i3 - November/December 2016 - Cover4
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20191112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20190102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20181112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20180102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20171112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170910
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160708
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170506
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170304
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20170102
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20161112
http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/manifest/i3_20160910
http://www.nxtbookMEDIA.com