Joel Spira, chairman and founder of Lutron Electronics, inventor of the solid-state dimmer switch and 2010 NEMA Falk Award winner, died April 8 at his home. He was 88.
Spira had been at work the previous day developing a new product with Lutron colleagues, said Kevin J. Cosgriff, president and CEO of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).
“Quite simply, he was a man who loved his family and his work and used that synergy to make our homes and workplaces comfortable,” Cosgriff said. “His work in lighting controls established a new industry sector. In turn, that industry became the means to significant energy savings. NEMA is honored to have had the opportunity to work with and honor Joel as an industry leader and innovator.”
In 2010, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History accepted Spira’s personal papers and other materials linked with the company’s history as part of the collection that also includes Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.
Spira and his wife, Ruth, launched the world’s first solid-state dimmer from their New York City apartment in 1959. Since then, Spira expanded the company’s offerings to include the first dimming ballast, the first reliable wireless lighting control system and other innovations that have been widely adopted as lighting control standards and integral aspects of energy efficiency and high-performance buildings.
Born March 1, 1927, in New York City, Spira served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and earned a physics degree at Purdue University in 1948. He is credited with more than 300 design and utility patents in the U.S. and 2,700 patents across the globe.