James T. Russell (born 1931 in Bremerton, Washington) is an American inventor. He earned a BA in physics from Reed College in Portland in 1953. He joined General Electric's nearby labs in Richland, Washington, where he initiated many types of experimental instrumentation. He designed and built the first electron beam welder.
In 1965, Russell joined the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of Battelle Memorial Institute in Richland. There, in 1965, Russell invented the overall concept of optical digital recording and playback. The earliest patents by Russell, US 3,501,586, and 3,795,902 were filed in 1966, and 1969. respectively. He built prototypes, and the first was operating in 1973. In 1973, 1974, 1975 his prototype was viewed by about 100 companies, including Philips and Sony engineers, and more than 1500 descriptive brochures were sent out to various interested parties. The concept was picked up by many technical and media magazines beginning in 1972.
Russell's optical digital inventions were available publicly from 1970. Early optical recording technology, which forms the physical basis of videodisc, CD and DVD technology, was first published/filed by Gregg in 1958 and Philips researchers, Kramer and Compaan, in 1969. It is debatable to say whether Russell's concepts, patents, prototypes, and literature instigated and in some measure guided the optical digital revolution.