William Shockley

12/2/1965 William B. Shockley, Nobel Laureate in physicsWilliam Bradford Shockley Jr. (American; February 13, 1910 – August 12, 1989) Physicist and co-inventor of the transistor (with John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain) for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. The three had been working together on theories of electric field effects in solid state materials, with the goal of replacing the triode vacuum tube which was large, fragile, and consumed much power. It was actually Bardeen and Brattain who worked out the final details and constructed the working prototype, but Shockley received a share in the credit since the team had been motivated by Shockley’s idea of using field effects. At the same time he secretly continued his own work to build a different sort of transistor based on junctions instead of point contacts, expecting this kind of design would be more commercially viable. He was able to work out the technical problems involved, and obtained a patent for the the junction transistor on July 5, 1951. Eventually he was appointed as the Director of Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in Mountain View, California, a division of Beckman Instruments. He had a hard time recruiting the people he wanted due to his difficult personality, but his efforts to commercialize this new transistor design during the 1950s and 60s led directly to the creation of Silicon Valley. Read more…

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