William Shockley

William Bradford Shockley (February 13, 1910 - August 12, 1989) was a physicist and co-inventor of the transistor with John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain. Born in London, England, to American parents, he was a descendant, on his father's side, of the American Mayflower pilgrims, John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, and his father was an alumnus of MIT. Raised in California, he received his Bachelor of Science degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1932 and his doctorate from MIT in 1936.

After receiving his doctorate, he immediately joined a research group headed by Dr. C.J. Davisson at Bell Labs in New Jersey, and began moving up the management ladder. In the mid 1940's, Shockley's group, consisting of Bardeen and Brattain, sought a solid-state alternative to fragile glass vacuum tube amplifiers. Shockley insisted on working alone, leaving his two researchers by themselves, and he would occasionally drop by to check on their work. December of 1947 was Bell Lab's "Miracle Month", when Bardeen and Brattain succeeded in creating a point-contact transistor -- without Shockley's help (Shockley's name did not appear on the ensuing patent). Shockley followed with concepts for a sandwich transistor weeks later, but the ensuing publicity generated by the "invention of the transistor" that limelighted Shockley infuriated and further alienated Bardeen and Brattain.

He invented the junction transistor on July 5, 1951.

Shockley resigned from Bell Labs in 1953 and moved back to the California Institute of Technology. In 1955, he joined Beckman Instruments, Inc., in Mountain View, California, where he was appointed as the Director of Beckman's newly founded Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory division.

He was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1956, but his aggressive management style and odd personality at the Shockley Lab became unbearable. In late 1957, eight of his researchers, who he named the Traitorous Eight, resigned and joined Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation to form a semiconductor division. Among the "Traitorous Eight" were Robert Noyce and Gordon E. Moore, who themselves would leave Fairchild to create Intel. Other offspring companies of Fairchild Semiconductor include National Semiconductor and Advanced Micro Devices.

During the late 1960s Shockley made controversial statements about the intellectual differences between races. He held that standardized intelligence tests showed a genetic factor in intellectual capacity and that tests for IQ reveal that Africian-Americans are inferior to Causasian-Americans. He further stated that the higher rate of reproduction among African-Americans had a retrogressive effect on evolution.

Shockley was no less harsh on other people:

  • "My children represent a definite regression" -- William Shockley

External references


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