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These talented inventors paved the way for smartphone cameras, selfies, Instagram, and plenty more besides.For without the groundbreaking research of Eric Fossum, George Smith, Nobukazu Teranishi, Michael Tompsett, and the late Willard Boyle, your smartphone camera might not even exist.

Four surviving engineers were rewarded for their work in digital imaging technology across three decades, work that besides smartphones has also had a huge impact in other fields such as medicine and space research.

The prestigious Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, which celebrates world-changing innovations in engineering, awarded the four inventors a cash prize of 1 million pounds (about $1.25 million) at a special event in London on Wednesday night.

The engineers are responsible for three digital imaging breakthroughs: the charge coupled device (CCD) found in early digital cameras; the pinned photodiode (PPD) that helped to scale down the size of light-capturing pixels and enhance image quality; and the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor used by most of today’s digital cameras and imaging equipment.

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