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National Instruments Co-Founders Inducted into Inventors Hall of Fame

Former UT researchers James Truchard and Jeff Kodosky honored for NI’s flagship virtual instrumentation product

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AUSTIN, Texas — National Instruments co-founders James Truchard and Jeff Kodosky, who founded one of the country’s pioneering technology companies while working at The University of Texas at Austin, have been selected as 2019 inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Together, the two software pioneers invented LabVIEWTM (Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Engineering Workbench) — a programming language that revolutionized the way engineers and scientists measure, test and control applications.

Both Truchard and Kodosky worked as researchers at The University of Texas at Austin in the 1970s. While working on a project for the U.S. Navy, they became frustrated by the inefficient data collection tools used at the time. They, along with co-worker Bill Nowlin, formed National Instruments in 1976 to find a solution to these challenges. Working out of Truchard’s garage, they developed what would become National Instruments’ flagship product, LabVIEW.

Propelled by the success of LabVIEW, National Instruments became one of the world’s leading companies in the development of virtual instruments for science and engineering. It is one of the largest companies whose origins are connected to UT Austin.

“I wanted a software for testing and measurement to do what the spreadsheet had done for financial analysis, and Jeff wanted to invent programming language,” said Truchard. “We both got our wish.”

Introduced in 1986, LabVIEW stood apart from other programming languages because it allowed programs to be created with user-friendly graphical notation rather than text-only programming. The beauty of the tool is that it offered customization and the ability to innovate quickly. From controlling the CERN Large Hadron Collider to facilitating navigation of the FDA regulatory process to testing video game controllers, LabVIEW has had a significant impact on a wide range of industries.

“James Truchard and Jeff Kodosky have reshaped the way generations of engineers and scientists approach instruments and work with data,” said UT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves. “Their hardware and software innovations have been nothing short of revolutionary, and their accomplishments reflect the very highest ideals and ambitions of The University of Texas at Austin.”

Truchard holds a doctorate in electrical engineering, as well as a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree in physics, all from UT Austin. In 2013 he received the Texas Exes’ Distinguished Alumnus Award. Truchard has given generously to his alma mater, including a $10 million contribution to the Cockrell School of Engineering that helped fund the Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC) and the National Instruments Student Project Center — an interdisciplinary teaching lab for research and hands-on student projects. After leading National Instruments for four decades as CEO and chairman, he retired in 2017. Today, he focuses his talents on Alzheimer’s research.

Jeff Kodosky earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he serves on the board of trustees and was awarded the Rensselaer Alumni Association Award. Kodosky is a founding supporter of UTeach — UT Austin’s nationally renowned STEM teacher preparation program. He continues to work at National Instruments creating new products for the company and holds more than 100 patents.

Truchard’s and Kodosky’s induction ceremony into the National Inventors Hall of Fame was held on May 2. The National Inventors Hall of Fame, in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, honors individuals who conceived, patented and advanced the greatest technological achievements of our nation and recognizes the enduring legacies of exceptional U.S. patent holders.