Alumni Spotlight: Jay Last ’51

Alumni Spotlight: Jay Last ’51

Jay Last ’51 has had an extraordinary career in science and art. As an early leader in the development of semiconductors, he helped usher in the computer revolution. His keen interest in design and form led him to collect African art, becoming part of the first generation of Westerners to devote serious attention to the continent’s visual art traditions.

In academic settings, science and art tend to dwell in separate departments, and often in different schools. But, says Last, “I don’t separate the two in my mind.” He reflected on their convergence in a memoir, African Art and Silicon Chips: A Life in Science and Art (Sierra Vista Books), published in 2015.

In June 2016, Peter Lennie, the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty in Arts, Sciences & Engineering, visited Last at his home in Beverly Hills, California. Over the course of an afternoon, Last spoke with Lennie about his education at Rochester, the connections between optics and art, and science’s relationship to the humanities.

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }

Read the full Rochester Review story here.

For more information: For those interested in learning more about supporting optics, please contact Eric Brandt, Executive Director of Advancement for the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences. For more on art and the humanities, please contact Ashley Smith, Senior Director of Advancement for the School of Arts & Sciences.


Jay Last is a member of the George Eastman Circle, the University’s leadership annual giving society, and a founding member of the Wilson Society, the University’s planned giving society.

—Kristine Thompson, May 2017


More Stories

  • Coach Pat Stark with Jeff Wittig ’86

    Coach Pat Stark: ‘He was part of our family’

    Peter “Pat” Stark, who had a highly successful career as a coach and an administrator at the University of Rochester, passed away on June 19. He was 90 years old....

  • Mike Sportiello

    Getting food onto the tables that need it most

    Mike Sportiello is third-year PhD student at the School of Medicine and Dentistry. He’s studying immunology and how certain cells fight influenza infection. This is the kind of research that could lead to the construction of an effective ...

  • ‘Our community is rallying together’

    Rochester alumni and friends around the world are helping to keep health care workers safe, advance COVID-19 research, and support students with emergency needs....

  • ‘Our parents and alumni in China are true University ambassadors’

    The University’s China Parent Network Committee arranged an initial donation of 3,000 face masks for immediate distribution to students who were still on campus. The network then called upon the broader Chinese parent community—comprise...