World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

William Shockley

Article Id: WHEBN0000033132
Reproduction Date:

Title: William Shockley  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: John N. Shive, Walter Houser Brattain, John Bardeen, California Institute of Technology, History of the race and intelligence controversy
Collection: 1910 Births, 1989 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Businesspeople, American Atheists, American Business Pioneers, American Eugenicists, American Inventors, American Nobel Laureates, American Physicists, California Institute of Technology Alumni, Cancer Deaths in California, Columbia University People, Deaths from Prostate Cancer, Experimental Physicists, Ieee Medal of Honor Recipients, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alumni, Members of the United States National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences Laureates, Nobel Laureates in Physics, Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize Winners, People from Hanover Township, New Jersey, Quantum Physicists, Race and Intelligence Controversy, Science and Technology in the San Francisco Bay Area, Scientists at Bell Labs, Scientists from California, Semiconductor Physicists, Silicon Valley People, Sperm Donation, Stanford University School of Engineering Faculty, Winners of the Comstock Prize in Physics
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

William Shockley

William Shockley
Born William Bradford Shockley Jr.
(1910-02-13)February 13, 1910
London, England,
United Kingdom
Died August 12, 1989(1989-08-12) (aged 79)
Stanford, California,
United States
Nationality American
Institutions Bell Labs
Shockley Semiconductor
Stanford University
Alma mater MIT
Doctoral advisor John C. Slater
Known for Point-contact transistor and BJT
Shockley diode equation
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1956)
Comstock Prize in Physics (1953)
Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1953)
IEEE Medal of Honor (1980)

William Bradford Shockley Jr. (February 13, 1910 – August 12, 1989) was an American physicist and inventor. Shockley was the manager of a research group that included John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain, the duo which invented the transistor. For this feat, all three were awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Shockley's attempts to commercialize a new transistor design in the 1950s and 1960s led to California's "Silicon Valley" becoming a hotbed of electronics innovation. In his later life, Shockley was a professor at Stanford and became a staunch advocate of eugenics.[1][2]


  • Biography 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Transistor 1.2
    • Shockley Semiconductor 1.3
    • Sidelights 1.4
    • Later years 1.5
    • Statements about populations and genetics 1.6
    • Death 1.7
  • Honors 2
  • Patents 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Early years

Shockley was born in London, England to American parents, and raised in his family's hometown of Palo Alto, California, from age three.[3] His father, William Hillman Shockley, was a mining engineer who speculated in mines for a living, and spoke eight languages. His mother, Mary (née Bradford), grew up in the American West, graduated from Stanford University, and became the first female US Deputy mining surveyor.[4]

He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1932. While still a student, Shockley married Iowan Jean Bailey in August 1933. In March 1934, the couple had a baby girl, Alison.

Shockley was awarded his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1936. The title of his doctoral thesis was Electronic Bands in Sodium Chloride, and was suggested by his thesis advisor, John C. Slater.[5] After receiving his doctorate, Shockley joined a research group headed by Clinton Davisson at Bell Labs in New Jersey. The next few years were productive ones for Shockley. He published a number of fundamental papers on solid state physics in Physical Review. In 1938, he got his first patent, "Electron Discharge Device" on electron multipliers.[6]

When 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. For this project, Secretary of War Robert Patterson awarded Shockley the Medal for Merit on October 17, 1946.[8]

In July 1945, the War Department asked Shockley to prepare a report on the question of probable casualties from an invasion of the Japanese mainland. Shockley concluded:

If the study shows that the behavior of nations in all historical cases comparable to Japan's has in fact been invariably consistent with the behavior of the troops in battle, then it means that the Japanese dead and ineffectives at the time of the defeat will exceed the corresponding number for the Germans. In other words, we shall probably have to kill at least 5 to 10 million Japanese. This might cost us between 1.7 and 4 million casualties including 400,000 to 800,000 killed.[9]

This prediction influenced the decision for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force Japan to surrender without an invasion.[10]


Shortly after the end of the war in 1945, Bell Labs formed a solid state physics group, led by Shockley and chemist Stanley Morgan, which included John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, physicist Gerald Pearson, chemist Robert Gibney, electronics expert Hilbert Moore, and several technicians. Their assignment was to seek a solid-state alternative to fragile glass vacuum tube amplifiers. Its first attempts were based on Shockley's ideas about using an external electrical field on a semiconductor to affect its conductivity. These experiments failed every time in all sorts of configurations and materials. The group was at a standstill until Bardeen suggested a theory that invoked surface states that prevented the field from penetrating the semiconductor. The group changed its focus to study these surface states and they met almost daily to discuss the work. The rapport of the group was excellent, and ideas were freely exchanged.[11]

By the winter of 1946 they had enough results that Bardeen submitted a paper on the surface states to Physical Review. Brattain started experiments to study the surface states through observations made while shining a bright light on the semiconductor's surface. This led to several more papers (one of them co-authored with Shockley), which estimated the density of the surface states to be more than enough to account for their failed experiments. The pace of the work picked up significantly when they started to surround point contacts between the semiconductor and the conducting wires with electrolytes. Moore built a circuit that allowed them to vary the frequency of the input signal easily. Finally they began to get some evidence of power amplification when Pearson, acting on a suggestion by Shockley, put a voltage on a droplet of glycol borate (a viscous chemical that did not evaporate, commonly used in electrolytic capacitors, and obtained by puncturing an example capacitor with a nail, using a hammer) placed across a P-N junction.[12]

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

Bell Labs' attorneys soon discovered Shockley's field effect principle had been anticipated and devices based on it patented in 1930 by Julius Lilienfeld, who filed his MESFET-like patent in Canada on October 22, 1925.[13][14] Although the patent appeared "breakable" (it could not work) the patent attorneys based one of its four patent applications only on the Bardeen-Brattain point contact design. Three others (submitted first) covered the electrolyte-based transistors with Bardeen, Gibney and Brattain as the inventors. Shockley's name was not on any of these patent applications. This angered Shockley, who thought his name should also be on the patents because the work was based on his field effect idea. He even made efforts to have the patent written only in his name, and told Bardeen and Brattain of his intentions.[15]

Shockley was incensed, and decided to demonstrate who was the real brains of the operation so he secretly continued his own work to build a different sort of transistor based on junctions instead of point contacts; he expected this kind of design would be more likely to be commercially viable. The point contact transistor, he believed, would prove to be fragile and difficult to manufacture. Shockley was also dissatisfied with certain parts of the explanation for how the point contact transistor worked and conceived of the possibility of minority carrier injection. On February 13, 1948 another team member, John N. Shive, built a point contact transistor with bronze contacts on the front and back of thin wedge of germanium, proving that holes could diffuse through bulk germanium and not just along the surface as previously thought.[16]:153[17]:145 Shive's invention sparked[18] Shockley's invention of the junction transistor.[16]:143 A few months later he invented an entirely new, considerably more robust, type of transistor with a layer or 'sandwich' structure. This structure went on to be used for the vast majority of all transistors into the 1960s, and evolved into the bipolar junction transistor. Shockley later admitted that the workings of the team were "mixture of cooperation and competition." He also admitted that he kept some of his own work secret until his "hand was forced" by Shive's 1948 advance.[19] Shockley worked out a rather complete description of what he called the "sandwich" transistor, and a first proof of principle was obtained on April 7, 1949.

Meanwhile, Shockley worked furiously on his magnum opus, Electrons and Holes in Semiconductors which was finally published as a 558 page treatise in 1950. In it, Shockley worked out the critical ideas of drift and diffusion and the differential equations that govern the flow of electrons in solid state crystals. Shockley's diode equation is also described. This seminal work became the "bible" for an entire generation of scientists working to develop and improve new variants of the transistor and other devices based on semiconductors.[20]

This resulted in his invention of the junction transistor, which was announced at a press conference on July 4, 1951.[21]

In 1951, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). He was forty-one years old; this was rather young for such an election. Two years later, he was chosen as the recipient of the prestigious Comstock Prize[22] for Physics by the NAS, and was the recipient of many other awards and honors.

The ensuing publicity generated by the "invention of the transistor" often thrust Shockley to the fore, much to the chagrin of Bardeen and Brattain. Bell Labs management, however, consistently presented all three inventors as a team. Though Shockley would correct the record where reporters gave him sole credit for the invention,[23] he eventually infuriated and alienated Bardeen and Brattain, and he essentially blocked the two from working on the junction transistor. Bardeen began pursuing a theory for superconductivity and left Bell Labs in 1951. Brattain refused to work with Shockley further and was assigned to another group. Neither Bardeen nor Brattain had much to do with the development of the transistor beyond the first year after its invention.[24]

Shockley Semiconductor

"His way" could generally be summed up as domineering and increasingly paranoid. In one well-known incident, he claimed that a secretary's cut thumb was the result of a malicious act and he demanded lie detector tests to find the culprit.[25]

After receiving the Nobel Prize in 1956, his ego may have gotten the better of his genius, as evidenced in his increasingly autocratic, erratic and hard-to-please management style.[26] In late 1957, eight of Shockley's researchers, who would come to be known as the "traitorous eight", resigned after Shockley decided not to continue research into silicon-based semiconductors.[27]

Over the course of 20 years, eight of Shockley's former employees started 65 new enterprises.[28] Shockley Semiconductor and these companies formed the nucleus of what became Silicon Valley, which revolutionized the world of electronics.


Shockley was popular as speaker, lecturer, and an amateur magician. He once magically produced a bouquet of roses at the end of his address before the American Physical Society. He was also famed in his early years for his elaborate practical jokes.[29] He became an accomplished rock climber, going often to the Shawangunks in the Hudson River Valley, where he pioneered a route across an overhang, known to this day as "Shockley's Ceiling."[12]

Shockley was first to propose a lognormal distribution to model the creation process for scientific research papers.[30] He was an atheist.[31]

Later years

When Shockley was eased out of the directorship of Shockley Semiconductor, he joined Stanford University, where he was appointed the Alexander M. Poniatoff Professor of Engineering and Applied Science.[32]

Statements about populations and genetics

Late in his life, Shockley became intensely interested in questions of race, intelligence, and eugenics. He thought this work was important to the genetic future of the human species, and came to describe it as the most important work of his career, even though expressing such politically unpopular views risked damaging his reputation. When asked why he seemed to take positions associated with both the political right and left, Shockley explained that his goal was "the application of scientific ingenuity to the solution of human problems."[33]

Shockley argued that the higher rate of reproduction among the less intelligent was having a dysgenic effect, and that a drop in average intelligence would ultimately lead to a decline in civilization.[34] Shockley advocated that the scientific community should seriously investigate questions of heredity, intelligence, and demographic trends, and suggest policy changes if he was proven right.[35]

Although Shockley was concerned about dysgenic effects among both blacks and whites, he perceived the situation among blacks as more problematic. According to the 1970 US Census, unskilled and skilled whites had on average 3.7 and 2.3 children, respectively, whereas the corresponding numbers for blacks were 5.4 and 1.9.[36]

He donated sperm to the Repository for Germinal Choice, a sperm bank founded by Robert Klark Graham in hopes of spreading humanity's best genes. The bank, called by the media the "Nobel Prize sperm bank," claimed to have three Nobel Prize-winning donors, though Shockley was the only one to publicly acknowledge his donation to the sperm bank. However, Shockley's controversial views brought the Repository for Germinal Choice a degree of notoriety and may have discouraged other Nobel Prize winners from donating sperm.[37]

In 1981 he filed a libel suit against the Atlanta Constitution after a reporter called him a "Hitlerite" and compared his racial views to those of the Nazis. Shockley won the suit but received only $1 in damages.[38][39] Shockley's biographer sums this up as saying that the statement was defamatory, but Shockley's reputation was not worth much by the time the trial reached a verdict.[40]

In his later years Shockley took several precautions to improve his interactions with the media, to little avail. He taped his telephone conversations with reporters, and then sent the transcript to them by registered mail. At one point he toyed with the idea of making them take a simple quiz on his work before discussing the subject with them. His habit of saving all his papers, even laundry lists, provides abundant documentation for researchers on his life.[41]

Edgar G. Epps argued that "William Shockley's position lends itself to racist interpretations".[42] Anthropologist Roger Pearson[43] has defended Shockley, arguing that Shockley's views were misrepresented in the popular media by journalists who lacked a proper understanding of the topics Shockley wrote about, and that his views were in fact shared by many other scholars who were reluctant to publicly defend him due to fear of being attacked themselves.[44]


Shockley died in 1989 of prostate cancer.[1]

By the time of his death he was almost completely estranged from most of his friends and family, except his wife who died in 2007. His children are reported to have learned of his death only through the print media.[45]

A group of about 30 colleagues, who have met on and off since 1956, met at Stanford in 2002 to reminisce about their time with Shockley and his central role in sparking the information technology revolution, its organizer saying "Shockley is the man who brought silicon to Silicon Valley."[46]


  • He received the National Medal of Merit for his war work in 1946.[47]
  • He received the Comstock Prize in Physics of the National Academy of Sciences in 1953.[48]
  • He was the first recipient of the Oliver E. Buckley Solid State Physics Prize of the American Physical Society in 1953.
  • Shockley was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics in 1956, along with Bardeen and Brattain. In his Nobel lecture, he gave full credit to Brattain and Bardeen as the inventors of the point-contact transistor. The three of them, together with wives and guests, had a rather raucous late-night champagne-fueled party to celebrate together.
  • Holley Medal of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1963.
  • He received honorary science doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Gustavus Adolphus Colleges in Minnesota.
  • Maurice Liebman Memorial Prize from the Institute of Radio Engineers (now the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1980.
  • Shockley was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
  • In 2011, he was listed at #3 on the Boston Globe's MIT150 list of the top 150 innovators and ideas in the 150-year history of MIT.


Shockley was granted over ninety US patents. Some notable ones are:

  • US 2502488  Semiconductor Amplifier. Apr. 4, 1950; his first granted patent involving transistors.
  • US 2569347  Circuit element utilizing semiconductive material. Sept. 25, 1951; His earliest applied for (June 26, 1948) patent involving transistors.
  • US 2655609  Bistable Circuits. Oct. 13, 1953; Used in computers.
  • US 2787564  Forming Semiconductive Devices by Ionic Bombardment. Apr. 2, 1957; The diffusion process for implantation of impurities.
  • US 3031275  Process for Growing Single Crystals. Apr. 24, 1962; Improvements on process for production of basic materials.
  • US 3053635  Method of Growing Silicon Carbide Crystals. Sept. 11, 1962; Exploring other semiconductors.


Prewar scientific articles by Shockley

  • An Electron Microscope for Filaments: Emission and Adsorption by Tungsten Single Crystals, R. P. Johnson and W. Shockley, Phys. Rev. 49, 436 - 440 (1936) doi:10.1103/PhysRev.49.436
  • Optical Absorption by the Alkali Halides, J. C. Slater and W. Shockley, Phys. Rev. 50, 705 - 719 (1936) doi:10.1103/PhysRev.50.705
  • Electronic Energy Bands in Sodium Chloride, William Shockley, Phys. Rev. 50, 754 - 759 (1936) doi:10.1103/PhysRev.50.754
  • The Empty Lattice Test of the Cellular Method in Solids, W. Shockley, Phys. Rev. 52, 866 - 872 (1937) doi:10.1103/PhysRev.52.866
  • On the Surface States Associated with a Periodic Potential, William Shockley, Phys. Rev. 56, 317 - 323 (1939) doi:10.1103/PhysRev.56.317
  • The Self-Diffusion of Copper, J. Steigman, W. Shockley and F. C. Nix, Phys. Rev. 56, 13 - 21 (1939) doi:10.1103/PhysRev.56.13

Books by Shockley

  • Shockley, William – Electrons and holes in semiconductors, with applications to transistor electronics, Krieger (1956) ISBN 0-88275-382-7.
  • Shockley, William and Gong, Walter A – Mechanics Charles E. Merrill, Inc. (1966).
  • Shockley, William and Pearson, Roger – Shockley on Eugenics and Race: The Application of Science to the Solution of Human Problems Scott-Townsend (1992) ISBN 1-878465-03-1.

Books about Shockley

  • Riordan, Michael; Hoddeson, Lillian (1997). Crystal Fire: The Invention of the Transistor and the Birth of the Information Age. New York: Norton.  
  • Shurkin, Joel (2006). Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age. London: Macmillan.  


  1. ^ a b "William B. Shockley, 79, Creator of Transistor and Theory on Race".  
  2. ^  
  3. ^
  4. ^ Broken Genius, p 4
  5. ^ Broken Genius, p 38
  6. ^ Broken Genius, p 48
  7. ^ Broken Genius p. 65–67
  8. ^ Broken Genius, p 85
  9. ^ Giangreco, D. M. (1997). "Casualty Projections For the U.S. Invasions Of Japan, 1945–1946".  
  10. ^ Newman, Robert P. (1998). "Hiroshima and the Trashing of Henry Stimson".  
  11. ^ Brattain quoted in Crystal Fire p. 127
  12. ^ a b Crystal Fire p.132
  13. ^ US 1745175  "Method and apparatus for controlling electric current" first filing in Canada on 22.10.1925
  14. ^ LilienfeldArchive copy at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "William Shockley". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 18 July 2011. 
  16. ^ a b Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson. Crystal Fire: The Invention of the Transistor and the Birth of the Information Age.  
  17. ^ Hoddeson, Lillian; Daitch, Vicki (2002). True Genius: The Life and Science of John Bardeen : the Only Winner of Two Nobel Prizes in Physics. Joseph Henry Press.  
  18. ^ Brittain, James E. (1984). "Becker and Shive on the transistor". Proceedings of the IEEE 72 (12): 1695.  
  19. ^ "Inventors of the transistor followed diverse paths after 1947 discovery". Associated press - Bangor Daily news. December 25, 1987. Retrieved May 6, 2012. 'mixture of cooperation and competition' and 'Shockley, eager to make his own contribution, said he kept some of his own work secret until "my hand was forced" in early 1948 by an advance reported by John Shive, another Bell Laboratories researcher' 
  20. ^ Broken Genius, p 121-122
  21. ^ "1951 - First Grown-Junction Transistors Fabricated".  
  22. ^ Comstock Prize
  23. ^
  24. ^ Crystal Fire p. 278
  25. ^ Crystal Fire p. 247
  26. ^ PBS program - American Experience (2012) 'Silicon Valley'
  27. ^ 10 Days That Changed History, By ADAM GOODHEART, Published: July 2, 2006 -
  28. ^ A Legal Bridge Spanning 100 Years: From the Gold Mines of El Dorado to the "Golden" Startups of Silicon Valley by Gregory Gromov
  29. ^ Crystal Fire p. 45
  30. ^ The Artful Universe by John D. Barrow, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995, p. 239
  31. ^ Crystal Fire p. 133
  32. ^ Crystal Fire p.277
  33. ^ Shockley on Eugenics and Race p. 48
  34. ^ Shockley on Eugenics and Race p. 197
  35. ^ Shockley on Eugenics and Race p. 213
  36. ^ Shockley on Eugenics and Race p. 278
  37. ^ Polly Morrice (2005-07-03). "The Genius Factory: Test-Tube Superbabies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  38. ^ Kessler, Ronald. "Absent at the Creation; How one scientist made off with the biggest invention since the light bulb". 
  39. ^ He was represented by Murray M. Silver, Esq., Attorney at Law, Atlanta, Georgia. See Time Magazine, September 24, 1984, Page 62.
  40. ^ Shurkin, Joel (2006). Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age. London: Macmillan. pp. 259–260.  
  41. ^ Shurkin, Joel (2006). Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age. London: Macmillan. p. 286 (quoting August 1980 issue of Playboy).  
  42. ^ Epps, Edgar G (Jan–February 1973). "Racism, Science, and the I.Q.". Integrated Education 11 (1): 35–44.  
  43. ^  
  44. ^ Pearson, Roger (1992). Shockley on Eugenics and Race, pg. 15–49. Scott-Townsend Publishers. ISBN 1-878465-03-1
  45. ^ Bill Shockley, Part 3 of 3
  46. ^ William Shockley: Still controversial, after all these years: 10/02
  47. ^ Shurkin p46
  48. ^ "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 

External links

  • National Academy of Sciences biography
  • Nobel biography
  • Nobel Lecture
  • PBS biography
  • Gordon Moore. Biography of William Shockley Time Magazine
  • Interview with Shockley biographer Joel Shurkin
  • History of the transistor
  • Lessons In Electric Circuits – Bipolar Junction Transistors
  • EncycloBEAMia – Bipolar Junction Transistor
  • Shockley and Bardeen-Brattain patent disputes
  • William Shockley vs. Francis Cress-Welsing (Tony Brown Show, 1974)
  • A Shockley website ( has been established, using the company name, to honor Shockley and those who first processed silicon in Silicon Valley.
  • Works by or about William Shockley in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.