SAN FRANCISCO -- Ray Dolby, who pioneered noise-reducing and surround-sound technology widely used in the film and music industries, died at his home here on Thursday at the age of 80.
The founder of Dolby Laboratories in 1965, he had suffered from Alzheimer's disease in recent years and in July was diagnosed with acute leukemia, according to a statement by his company.
"I'm deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ray Dolby," said California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, in a separate statement to this newspaper. "He was one of the great innovators and leaders in the state. He was quiet, benevolent and did a remarkable amount behind the scenes that I, as (San Francisco) Mayor, witnessed firsthand. He was a great man and a great example for the community."
Born in Portland, Ore., in 1933, Dolby moved to the Peninsula, where he worked from 1949 to 1957 at Ampex, helping develop a videotape recording system. In 1957, he received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University and then attended Cambridge University in England, where he earned a doctorate in physics, met his wife, Dagmar, and was a consultant to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.
He founded Dolby Laboratories in London, but in 1976, he moved to San Francisco where his company established its headquarters, laboratories and manufacturing facilities.
During his career, Dolby Laboratories won 10 Academy Awards and 13 Emmys. In 2012, the Hollywood home of the Academy Awards was renamed the Dolby Theater. Dolby himself was given the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton in 1997 and the Order of Officer of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in 1987, among other honors.
"Ray Dolby touched all of us with his work. 'All' means anyone on the planet with a passion for music and cinema over the last 50 years,'' said Chris Chafe, director of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University.
Dolby and his wife also were active in philanthropy. Among other gifts, they donated $5 million in 2005 to help launch the state's newly approved stem-cell research organization -- the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine -- after lawsuits initially held up the state agency's financing.
"Dolby rescued us," said Jeff Sheehy a board member with the stem-cell agency. Without the grant, he added, "we wouldn't have been able to open the doors."
Dolby is survived by his wife, sons David and Tom, and four grandchildren. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations go to the Alzheimer's Association, 1060 La Avenida St., Mountain View, 94043, or the Brain Health Center, c/o CPMC Foundation, 45 Castro St., San Francisco, 94117.