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Obituary: Lutron Founder Joel Spira Passes Away (Updated)

April 8, 2015
Joel Spira, founder of Lutron and one of the lighting industry's true legends, died April 8.

Joel Spira, founder of Lutron and one of the lighting industry's true legends, died April 8, according to an article in eastern Pennsylvania's The Morning Call.

In a business with so many new players from the semiconductor and electronics industries and a steady parade of new execs managing the lighting businesses of mega-conglomerates and then moving on, Joel Spira stood out for decades as a widely respected lighting industry icon. He was the consummate entrepreneur, a familiar face at all of the national lighting events, and a true legend in the lighting market. 

NEMA Comment on Joel Spira's contributions to the electrical industry:

"Joel Spira, chairman and founder of Lutron Electronics, inventor of the solid-state dimmer switch, and 2010 NEMA Falk Award winner passed away April 8 at home. He was 88.  Lutron has been a member of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) since 1972.

According to NEMA President and CEO Kevin J. Cosgriff, Spira had been at work the previous day developing a new product with Lutron colleagues.

“Quite simply, he was a man who loved his family and his work, and used that synergy to make our homes and workplaces comfortable,” Cosgriff said. “His work in lighting controls established a new industry sector. In turn, that industry became the means to significant energy savings. NEMA is honored to have had the opportunity to work with and honor Joel as an industry leader and innovator.”

In 2010, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History accepted Spira’s personal papers and other materials linked with the company's history as part of the collection that also includes Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.

Spira and his wife Ruth launched the world's first solid-state dimmer from their New York City apartment in 1959. Since then, Spira expanded the company’s offerings to include the first dimming ballast, the first reliable wireless lighting control system, and other innovations that have been widely adopted as lighting control standards and integral aspects of energy efficiency and high-performance buildings.

Born March 1, 1927, in New York City, Spira served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and earned a physics degree at Purdue University in 1948. He is credited with more than 300 design and utility patents in the U.S. and 2,700 patents across the globe."