PRINCETON, N.J.—Bernard J. Lechner, noted television pioneer and electronic display expert, died at the age of 82 on April 11, 2014. He was a career employee of the Radio Corporation of America and a Life Fellow member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), and the Society for Information Display (SID), an organization which he helped found. Lechner contributed heavily to the development of high-definition television standards and flat screen video displays.
Lechner was born in New York City and developed an interest in electronics at an early age. His enrollment as an engineering student at Columbia University was interrupted by the Korean War. However, after serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Lechner was able to resume his studies and graduated with an electrical engineering degree in 1957. Soon afterwards, Lechner began a 30-year career with RCA Laboratories, where he worked in a broad field of projects, including home video recording and television tuners and cameras.
In the mid-1960s, his interests shifted to liquid crystal technology, and working in collaboration with another RCA researcher, George Heilmeier, Lechner was able to develop a liquid crystal display by 1968. When RCA sold off its LCD interests in 1976, Lechner’s interests shifted to advanced television systems development and high-definition television.
Lechner was recognized for his contributions to advanced television systems in 2000 by the ATSC, as he became the first recipient of that organization’s Outstanding Contributor Award. The ATSC later renamed this award in Lechner’s honor and is it presented annually to individuals making significant contributions in the field of advanced television systems. Lechner also received the IEEE’s 2011 Jun-ichi Nishizawa Medal in recognition of his pioneering work in flat screen displays which today have become ubiquitous, almost completely replacing older television and computer image display technologies.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Joan M. Lechner, and a sister, Patricia A. Nahas.
A service in celebration of his life will take place on May 3, 2014 at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Princeton, N.J.