James Russell is a name you may not have heard of. But if you’ve ever played music on a CD, then you have been taking advantage of his genius. Russell is a scientist and inventor, and he is responsible for inventing technology that is key to compact discs and digitized recording in general.

And he has dyslexia.

Russell was born in Washington state in 1931, and showed natural aptitude for mechanics from a young age, often joining his father in tinkering on the family farm. Although he majored in physics and went on to enjoy a prestigious career with General Electric, he struggled with mathematics as a kid. He could never manage to memorize the times tables, and would come up with visual ways to understand them.

He used that outstanding capacity for visual manipulation throughout his career working with circuitry. He invented the first electron beam welder during his tenure at General Electric.

Russell always loved music. One day he started to think about how the sound quality on recordings could be improved so that the scratches, hisses and noise blips could give way to seamless sound. He came up with the idea of optical recording and playback, and built many prototypes of the first CD in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Thanks to his work, the optical digital revolution of the late 20th century took flight.

He has continued to work on digital systems, and also has dabbled in inventing new transportation systems in an urban environment. An inventor’s mind is never at rest!


Sarah Forrest is a System Coach for the Easyread System, an online Guided Phonetic Reading course that helps kids with visual learning styles, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and more by providing support for spelling and reading problems. Find out more at www.morganlearning.com