Emergency Lighting News

Remembering Dick Bodine, the inventor of the emergency ballast and founder of the Bodine Company

Dick Bodine, inventor of the emergency ballast dies at 91.


Richard Hill "Dick" Bodine, Jr., cofounder, with his wife Virginia "Jinnie", of the Bodine Company and the Bodine School, died December 16, 2015, after a long illness. He was 91.

In 1961, after serving in World War II, Dick Bodine and his wife Jinni started The Bodine Company in a chicken coop in their Germantown backyard, initially selling high-end home security systems that Bodine designed using intercom and hi-fi stereo components.

In the 1970s, Dick invented a way to convert the use of fluorescent bulbs from alternating current to battery power in order to light signs on buses. This breakthrough led to Bodine's major product, inverter ballasts that power emergency lighting fixtures used all over the world in many public buildings, hospital operating rooms, the New York Subway, and submarines.

The circuit he designed, with a rechargeable nickel cadmium battery, is still the basic design of all emergency lighting ballasts. The National Electrical Code, later written for all emergency lighting in public buildings, states that emergency lighting had to provide a minimum of 90 minutes of light, based on Bodine's achievement.

"Dick wanted to make sure that everything we did exceeded anything that was in code," said AlLyons, president of the Bodine Company after Dick retired in 1988.

"Dick was gracious, humble and incredibly generous," Jemison said. "The Bodine Company seemed to support everything in the world," said Frank Jemison, Bodine's stepson.

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