Talent, In Spades

This week we take a break from budgets, wastewater and government controversies – well, not completely, but, shall we say instead “feature less prominently” – in favor of highlighting two local folks whose talent has taken them far and brought them great recognition.

Earlier this month, Chatham's Dr. Michael Tompsett stood with three other notable engineers on a London stage to receive the £1 million Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. Each played a key role in the pioneering of digital photograph and imaging, ushering in today's world of selfies and instant high-definition images. While working for Bell Labs in the late 1970s, Tompsett created a semiconductor circuit that stored images as data, leading to the world's first digital camera. He also created the analogue-to-digital converter which helped open up the uses for the technology, now so ubiquitous that we take it for granted. Later, other engineers, including two lauded along with Tompsett, found ways to make the chips smaller and smaller, so that today a digital camera fits inside a pill that can be swallowed to help diagnose medical conditions. It's not an understatement to say that Tompsett's work changed the world.

On a more visceral level, New Englanders – indeed, football fans everywhere – were mesmerized by the New England Patriots come from behind victory in the recent Super Bowl. And right on the sidelines during that historic game, camera in hand, was our very own Eric Adler, for 14 years The Chronicle's ace sports reporter and photographer. Using the digital camera technology that Tompsett helped invent, Adler captured key moments of the contest, including the iconic end-zone celebration at the conclusion of the game. And he stood next to Tom Brady during the subsequent Duck Boat parade in Boston, recording that equally historic event for the Patriots and posterity. It's not an overstatement to say that Eric Adler was the best sports reporter we ever had; his stories were always fair, detailed and interesting to read – even for non-sports fans – and his photographic skills always made the sports section look sharp. While we were sad to lose him, there was never any doubt that he was meant for greater things, and his time with us was just a stop along that path. We're happy to profile Eric and his recollections of the Super Bowl in this week's paper, not only to bring attention to a local boy made good, but also to bring the many sports fans in the area who wondered what became of him up to date on his success.

People like Tompsett and Adler show us that even though we live in small, in some ways provincial towns, there's a lot of talent here, both homegrown and washed ashore. Indeed, we discover amazing things about our local residents every week, and try as much as possible to shine the spotlight on their accomplishments. These are the people who make our communities special. And although they're important too, it sure beats reading, or writing, another budget story.