Shockley, William

Shockley, William

William Bradford Shockley Jr. was born on February 13, 1910. He was an American inventor, physicist, and eugenicist.

William Shockley was one of the first recruits to Bell Labs by Mervin Kelly, who became director of research at the company in 1936 and focused on hiring solid-state physicists. Executives at Bell Labs had theorized that semiconductors may offer solid-state alternatives to the vacuum tubes used throughout Bell's nationwide telephone system. Shockley conceived a number of designs based on copper-oxide semiconductor materials.

Shockley published a number of fundamental papers on solid state physics in Physical Review. In 1938, he received his first patent, "Electron Discharge Device", on electron multipliers.

When World War II broke out, Shockley's prior research was interrupted and he became involved in radar research in Manhattan, New York City. In May 1942, he took leave from Bell Labs to become a research director at Columbia University's Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Group.

In 1944, he organized a training program for B-29 bomber pilots to use new radar bomb sights. In late 1944 he took a three-month tour to bases around the world to assess the results.

After the war Shockley returned to Bell Telephone as director of its research program on solid-state physics. Working with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, he resumed his attempts to use semiconductors as amplifiers and controllers of electronic signals. The three men invented the point-contact transistor in 1947 and a more effective device, the junction transistor, in 1948. Shockley was deputy director of the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group of the Department of Defense in 1954–55.

In 1956 William Shockley together with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for "their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect".

Also in 1956, Shockley started Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in Mountain View, California. The company, a division of Beckman Instruments, Inc., was the first establishment working on silicon semiconductor devices in what came to be known as Silicon Valley.

In 1958 he became lecturer at Stanford University, California, and in 1963 he became the first professor of engineering science there (emeritus, 1974).

William Shockley died of cancer in 1989 at the age of 79 and was interred at Alta Mesa Memorial Park in Palo Alto, California.


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