Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.
Born in London, England, to American parents, and 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. Notably, the title of his doctoral thesis was "Calculation of Electron Wave Functions in Sodium Chloride Crystals."
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 Labs' "Miracle Month ", when Bardeen and Brattain succeeded in creating a point-contact transistor -- without Shockley's help. Even so, Shockley thought he should have the patent, since the team's work was motivated by Shockley's idea using field effects. He made efforts to have the patent written in his name only and told Bardeen and Brattain of his intentions. At the same time, he secretly worked to come up with a new improved design based on junctions instead of point contacts; he expected this kind of design would be more likely to be viable commercially.
Bell Lab attorneys soon discovered that Shockley's field effect principle had been anticipated and patented in 1930 by Julius Lilienfeld . Bell Labs decided it could not risk the chance of its patent being rejected, due to Lilienfeld's patent, and therefore based its patent application on the Bardeen-Brattain design, which was new. Shockley's name was not on the resulting patent.
During this time Shockley worked out the critical ideas of drift and diffusion and the differential equations that govern the flow of electrons in solid state crystals. He also conceived of the possibility of minority carrier injection that led to his concepts for a sandwich transistor weeks later. This would lead to the junction transistor , invented by Shockley on July 5, 1951. He obtained a patent for this invention.
The ensuing publicity generated by the "invention of the transistor" limelighted Shockley. This further infuriated and alienated Bardeen and Brattain. Shockley later blocked the two from working on the junction transistor.
He was a popular speaker/lecturer and often consulted by Washington (DC) and the military. His abrasive management style caused him to be passed over for executive promotion at Bell Labs which correctly felt he was a greater asset as a research scientist and theorist. Shockley wanted the power and profit he felt he deserved. He resigned from Bell Labs in 1953 and moved back to the California Institute of Technology. Eventually he was given a chance to run his own company as a division of his Caltech friend's successful electronics firm. In 1955, he joined Beckman Instruments, Inc., where he was appointed as the Director of Beckman's newly founded Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory division in Mountain View, California.
Shockley was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1956. With his prestige and Beckman's capital, Shockley personally recruited many of the top scientists and graduates in the emerging field he had help to create. However, Shockley's focus on pushing the forefront of research on solid state electronics and his domineering personality made the Shockley Lab the training grounds for later disgruntaled groups to gather, learn and spin-off what would be become the giants of Silicon Valley. Shockley Semiconductor did not, however, make Shockley a fortune or even turn a profit. In late 1957, eight of his researchers, whom 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 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 African-Americans are inferior to Caucasian-Americans. He further stated that the higher rate of reproduction among African-Americans had a retrogressive effect on evolution, and expressed an interest in eugenics. He came to describe this work as the most important of his career, although it severely tarnished his reputation. Shockley's published writings on this topic, such as in Letters to the Editor of the Palo Alto (CA) Times, were largely based on the research of Cyril Burt.
Perhaps his beliefs about eugenics led him to donate sperm to the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank founded by Robert Klark Graham. Shockley is the only Nobel Prize winner known to have donated to this sperm bank, although it is commonly referred to as "the Nobel Prize sperm bank" (there were purportedly other anonymous Nobel laureate donors).
Shockley had a stormy relationship with his three children, once being quoted as saying, "My children represent a definite regression." By the time of his death in 1989 of prostate cancer, he was almost completely estranged from them, and his children are reported to have only learned of his death through the print media.
- National Academy of Sciences biography
- http://www.nobel.se/physics/laureates/1956/shockley-bio.html (Nobel biography)
- http://www.pbs.org/transistor/album1/shockley (for a good biography)
- http://www.pbs.org/transistor/science/info/junctw.html (history of the transistor)
- About William Shockley
- Shockley and Bardeen-Brattain patent disputes
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