US physicist, who developed the junction transistor from the point-contact transistor. He was awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize for Physics.
The son of a mining engineer, Shockley was educated at the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he gained his PhD in 1936. He immediately joined the research staff of Bell Telephone Laboratories and in 1953 became director of the transistor physics department. Shockley also became connected with a number of private companies all concerned with the commercial exploitation of the transistor. In 1963 he was appointed to the Poniatoff Professorship of Electrical Engineering at Stanford, remaining a consultant with Bell until he retired from both positions in 1975.
In 1947 Shockley's colleagues at Bell, J. Bardeen and W. J. Brattain, invented the point-contact transistor. This, however, was a theoretical rather than a practical breakthrough. Shortly afterwards Shockley developed the more practical junction transistor, which transformed the electronics industry. Shockley shared his Nobel Prize with Bardeen and Brattain. Subsequently Shockley argued his minority views on genetics, gaining considerable publicity. Believing that blacks are less intelligent than whites, and that the current population explosion is spreading ‘bad’ genes at the expense of ‘good’, Shockley enthusiastically supported such schemes as a sperm bank produced by Nobel prizewinners, restrictions on mixed marriages, and voluntary sterilization.
Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).