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Laminar-flow cleanroom inventor honored posthumously by National Inventors Hall of Fame
Date:3/4/2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. The inventor of the modern cleanroom, Willis Whitfield, will be honored posthumously by the National Inventors Hall of Fame for a technology that revolutionized manufacturing in electronics and pharmaceuticals, made hospital operating rooms safer and advanced space exploration.

Whitfield, the son of Texas cotton farmers who became a physicist, retired from Sandia National Laboratories in 1984 and died Nov. 12, 2012, shortly after the laminar-flow cleanroom invention's 50th anniversary. With slight modifications, his invention is still the standard.

Whitfield is among 15 inventors being inducted this year into the Alexandria, Va.-based National Inventors Hall of Fame. His work will be honored at a Washington, D.C.-area celebration in May.

"The technological solution that Willis Whitfield designed for the laminar-airflow clean room is illustrative of the long tradition of innovative research at Sandia National Laboratories. Willis' invention has stood the test of time, making the modern microelectronics industry possible," said acting Sandia Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Julia Phillips. "It's that same type of ground-breaking interdisciplinary research that advances the frontiers of science and engineering and enables our national security mission at Sandia."

A panel of experts in science, technology, engineering and patents selected the inductees. The National Inventors Hall of Fame "requires candidates to hold a United States patent that has contributed significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and useful arts."

Past inductees include Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; Beulah Louise Henry, inventor of the ice cream freezer; and cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney.

Modest 'Mr. Clean' would have appreciated Hall of Fame honor

When Whitfield announced the invention in 1962, researchers and industrialists didn't believe it, but
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Contact: Heather Clark
hclark@sandia.gov
505-844-3511
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories
Source:Eurekalert  

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