William Shockley

1910- 1989


ohn Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain at Bell Labs, 1948.

William Bradford Shockeley Jr was born in London to American parents on February 13, 1910. He grew up in Palo Alto California. He received is BA from Caltech in 1932 and a Phd from MIT in 1936. He then went to work for Bell Labs in New York City. When World War II broke out he became involved in research to improve radar. He took a leave from Bell Labs to work for Columbia Universities Anti- Submarine Warfare Operations Groups. In 1944, he helped train B-29 bombers to use radar bomb sites. In 1948 he invented a transistor that used a number of layers, thus becoming the inventor of the modern transistor. In 1950 he published Electrons and Holes in Semiconductors which became the standard text for those working on transistors. In 1956 he moved to Mountain View California, founding Shockely Semiconductor Laboratory, effectively founding modern day Silicon Valley. He received a Nobel prize in 1956. He was not able however to hold key employees and in 1957 eight key employees left and founded Fairchild Semiconductor.

Shockley became a controversial figure when he delved into the mysteries of intelligence and genetics., Shockley began to propose that Blacks were genetically inferior to Whites, assertions which angered both colleagues and the public.

After leaving his semiconductor company Shockely became a professor at Stanford in 1963 where he remained until he retired in 1975


Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age (Macmillan Science)