Stephen A. Benton, who invented the "rainbow hologram," opening up the science of holography to artists and art appreciators, died Sunday of brain cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Dr. Benton's discovery allowed holograms to be illuminated by light bulbs instead of lasers, thereby leading "holography out of the lab," Steven L. Smith, Dr. Benton's research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Spatial Imaging group, said yesterday. "It was the clear opening of the door to get holography out into the world."
In addition to generating a new art form, the discovery eventually had a practical application. Credit card companies and state agencies today use rainbow holograms to deter counterfeiting of credit cards and identification cards.
Dr. Benton, 61, a longtime professor of media arts and sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was also a founding member of the MIT Media Laboratory, where he directed the Center for Advanced Visual Studies.
"Steve brought a joy and spirit of inventiveness to all that he did," Charles M. Vest, MIT's president, said in a statement. "He was a gifted teacher, scientist, engineer, and artist who personified the best of MIT."