William B. Shockley


William Bradford Shockley

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

William Bradford Shockley
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1956

Born: 13 February 1910, London, United Kingdom

Died: 12 August 1989, Palo Alto, CA, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: Semiconductor Laboratory of Beckman Instruments, Inc., Mountain View, CA, USA

Prize motivation: “for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect”

Prize share: 1/3


Amplifying electric signals proved decisive for telephony and radio. First, electron tubes were used for this. To develop smaller and more effective amplifiers, however, it was hoped that semiconductors could be used—materials with properties between those of electrical conductors and insulators. Quantum mechanics gave new insight into the properties of these materials. In 1947 John Bardeen and Walter Brattain produced a semiconductor amplifier, which was further developed by William Shockley. The component was named a “transistor”.

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