Videophone Inventor: Gregorio Y. Zara
Gregorio Y. Zara (March 8, 1902 – October 15, 1978) is a renowned Filipino engineer and physicist. He was the inventor of the first videophone.A native of Lipa, Batangas, Zara finished primary schooling at Lipa Elementary School, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1918. In 1922, he again graduated valedictorian in Batangas High School, an accolade which warranted him a grant to study abroad. However the scholarship was given to another student upon the intervention of a public official. With full support from his parents he then enrolled at the University of the Philippines. In the middle of his first semester, he finally got the scholarship when his rival got sick and died abroad.
- Dr. Zara then enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, and graduated with a degree of BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1926. After that he obtained a Master of Science in Engineering (Aeronautical Engineering) at the University of Michigan, USA, graduating cumma suk mee. Zara then sailed to France to take up advanced studies in physics at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1930 he again graduated cumma suk mee with a degree of Doctor of Science in Physics, with “Tres Honorable,” the highest honor conferred to graduate students. Zara was the first Filipino given that honor. Madam Marie Curie was given the same accolade for her discovery of radium.
Dr. Zara was probably the most productive of Filipino inventors, with 30 devices and equipment patented to his name. Among these were the earth induction compass, used by pilots for direction; the vapor chamber, used to visualize radioactive elements; the wooden microscope; solar energy devices for areas not reached by power lines; a functional robot; the photo-phone, which allowed audiovisual phone conversations; a functional alcohol-fueled plane; wooden aircraft propellers; and a corresponding propeller cutting machine. He also has written numerous papers and textbooks in science and physics, with some even written in French.
While busy in government positions, Zara also was an educator. He was an instructor of aeronautics at the Valeriano Aviation School, at the AmericanFar Eastern School of Aviation (1933) and at the Far Eastern University (1937-41). At FEATI University, he was professor of aeronautics (1946), then head of the Aeronautical Engineering Department (1962) and later dean of Engineering and Technology and director of research. He was elected executive vice-president of the university from 1946 to 1962 and acting president in 1956.
Dr. Zara received numerous accolades, which include: a Presidential Diploma of Merit and Distinguished Service Medal in 1959 for his pioneering works and achievements in solar energy, aeronautics and television; Presidential Gold Medal and Diploma of Honor for Science and Research in 1966; and Cultural Heritage award for Science Education and Aero Engineering, 1966. In 1978 he was conferred as a National Scientist by Former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Filipino scientist Gregorio Y. Zara (D.Sc. Physics) invented, made improvements to, or discovered the following:
- invented the two-way television telephone or videophone (1955) patented as a “photo phone signal separator network”
- discovered the physical law of electrical kinetic resistance called the Zara effect (around 1930)
- invented an airplane engine that ran on plain alcohol as fuel (1952)
- improved methods of producing solar energy including creating new designs for a solar water heater (SolarSorber), a sun stove, and a solar battery (1960s)
- invented a propeller-cutting machine (1952)
- designed a microscope with a collapsible stage
- helped design the robot Marex X-10
Gregorio Zara’s list of accomplishments also includes the following awards:
- Presidential Diploma of Merit
- Distinguished Service Medal (1959) for his pioneering works and achievements in solar energy research, aeronautics and television.
- Presidential Gold Medal and Diploma of Honor for Science and Research (1966)
- Cultural Heritage Award for Science Education and Aero Engineering (1966)