Harvey C. Nathanson (October 22, 1936 – November 22, 2019) was an American electrical engineer who invented the first MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) device of the type now found in products ranging from iPhones to automobiles.
MEMS devices, which are made using integrated circuit fabrication techniques, are composed of small moving mechanical elements that generally range from 1 to 100 micrometres (0.001 to 0.1 mm) in size. Typical MEMS devices include the accelerometers found in smartphones and video game controllers, and the gyroscopes used in automobiles and wearables.
Nathanson conceived the first MEMS device in 1965 to serve as a tuner for microelectronic radios. It was developed with Robert A. Wickstrom and William E. Newell at Westinghouse Research Labs in Pittsburgh, PA., and patented as a Microelectric Frequency Selective Apparatus.
A refined version of the device was subsequently patented as the Resonant Gate Transistor.
In his work developing similar devices, Nathanson pioneered a method of batch fabrication in which layers of insulators and metal on silicon wafers are shaped and undercut through the use of masks and sacrificial layers, a process that would later become a mainstay of MEMS manufacturing.
In 1973 he patented the use of millions of microscopically small moving mirrors to create a video display of the type now found in digital projectors.
A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, he holds more than 50 patents in the field of solid-state electronics.