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William Shockley


William Shockley

William Shockley

Mary Bellis

Why was William Shockley Important?:

In 1947, American physicist and nobel prize winner, William Shockley co-invented the transistor, an influential little invention that changed the course of history for computers and electronics in a big way.

William Schockley Education:

William Schockley received a B.Sc. degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1932. He received a Ph.D. degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1936. His doctoral thesis was on the energy band structure of sodium chloride entitled "Calculations of Wave Functions for Electrons in Sodium Chloride Crystals."

William Schockley Main Awards:

  • 1946 Medal for Merit for work with the War Department
  • 1952 Morris Leibmann Memorial Prize of the Institute of Radio Engineers
  • 1953 Oliver E. Buckley Solid State Physics Prize of the American Physical Society
  • 1954 Cyrus B. Comstock Award of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 1956 Nobel Prize for Physics with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain
  • 1963 Holley Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • 1974 Induction into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame

William Shockley Biography: February 13, 1910 – August 12, 1989:

William Shockley was born in London, England, in 1910. He was the son of American parents, William Hillman Shockley a mining engineer, and Mary Shockley a former deputy mineral surveyor. In 1913, the family returned to the United States.

In 1936, William Shockley began working at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he remained until 1955, becoming the Director of the Transistor Physics Department. John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley co-invented the transistor in 1947 at Bell Labs.

In 1950, Shockley published a book "Electrons and Holes in Semiconductors".

The Silicon in Silicon Valley

After William Shockley left Bell, he founded and served as Director of the Shockley Transistor Corporation in Mountain View, California, doing R&D and managing the production of new transistors and other semiconductor devices. Shockley was a significant force behind the widespread commercialization of the transistor.

Early transistors were made with germanium because it was easier to prepare in pure form but it was a rare element. Silicon could operate at higher temperatures, and was more common and cheap. However, silicon processing was at that time difficult to do. William Shockley began the R&D at his laboratory to invent a silicon transistor, however, he abandoned the project. Several of his employees abandoned Shockley and formed their own company Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation where the silicon based transistor was invented.

The Colorful Side of William Shockley

William Shockley was not always an easy man to work with and was considered to be paranoid by some. At Shockley Laboratory, the boss once made all his employees take a polygraph test to settle a minor dispute. His behavior was probably one reason why so many of his employees quit.

In 1963, Shockley retired from business for an academic position (Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering) at Stanford University. At Stanford he formulated his theory of what he termed dysgenics. William Shockley advocated that individuals with IQs below 100 be paid to undergo voluntary sterilization, supported a Nobel sperm bank for geniuses, and suggested that certain racial groups might be smarter than others. Dysgenics as a science was never well received, however, William Shockley considered dysgenics his greatest achievement.

In 1989, William Shockley died in San Francisco of prostate cancer.

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