Gertrude Neumark Rothschild, Columbia Professor Who Won Patent Fights, Dies at 83:
LED screens for televisions and mobile phones are a part of everyday life for many Americans, yet few people know that the work of Gertrude Neumark Rothschild made such technology possible. For Ms. Rothschild, taking on large electronics companies to get that recognition was a question of fairness.
Ms. Rothschild, a professor emerita of materials science and engineering at Columbia University, died of heart failure in Rye, N.Y., in November at the age of 83. Her research into light-emitting and laser diodes, or LED's, was responsible for significant advances in consumer and industrial products. When companies failed to credit her work, she fought successful legal battles for recognition.
Ms. Rothschild was one of only a handful of women in a field dominated by men, and her ideas often failed to get the acknowledgment they deserved, friends say.
Despite studying in a field where, as a woman, she was in the minority, Ms. Rothschild moved quickly through her formal education. She earned a bachelor's degree from Barnard College in 1948, and a master's degree in chemistry from Radcliffe College one year later. Two years later, she earned a doctorate in chemistry from Columbia University.
In 2008 she filed complaints with the U.S. International Trade Commission against some large corporations, including Sony and Nokia, for violating a 1993 patent. The commission agreed to hear the case, and Ms. Rothschild brought complaints against even more companies. Many of those companies settled.
By November 2009, she had secured about $27-million in settlements and licensing agreements from more than 40 companies