How Lutron Landed in the Smithsonian

Joel and Ruth Spira honored today for inventing the solid-state dimmer in 1959.

Lutron founder Joel Spira was honored by the Smithsonian today for inventing the solid-state dimmer in 1959.
Julie Jacobson · April 29, 2010

Lutron has landed in the Smithsonian.

It took 16 months of data gathering and petitioning, but today it became official.

Lutron founders Joel and Ruth Spira were recognized today during a ceremony that honors Mr. Spira for inventing the solid-state dimmer in 1959.

The Lutron display is part of the Smithsonian’s Electricity group and will be included in a division called “Lighting: A Revolution.” The artifacts also will be available for loans to other museums.

Among the artifacts donated to the Smithsonian is Spira’s original inventor’s notebook with the first entry in 1958.

That “Journal A” set a precedent for Lutron, where all engineers are required to document all of their work in a similar fashion.

Lutron spokesperson Melissa Andresko did much of the prep work.

“Our history wasn’t captured very well,” she says. “I was digging in places like Mr. Spira’s basement. We have a lot of different buildings on campus and Mr. Spira has had offices in every single one of them.”

She tells of one office that had sheets over the desk. “That’s how long he hasn’t been in it,” she says.

Among the other great finds: a warranty card sent in by the White House and the very first purchase order for a dimmable ballast.

“There was one picture showing Mr. Spira’s bedroom that was being used as a makeshift lab,” Andresko says.

The 127-page petition, as required by the Smithsonian, also includes all official Lutron documents including UL approvals and all documented patents.

The lengthy project was well worth it, says Andresko. “It was a huge moment for him.” When told of the Smithsonian coup, she adds, “The look on Mr. Spira’s face – I will never forget that moment.”

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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at

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  Article Topics

News · Joel Spira · Lutron · All Topics
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