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Great Engineers & Scientists

In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." In this blog, we take Newton's words to heart, and recognize the many great engineers and scientists upon whose shoulders we stand.

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Robert Norton Noyce: Co-Inventor of the Integrated Circuit

Posted June 14, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Born on December 12, 1927, Robert Norton Noyce was a scientist, engineer, and entrepreneur. He is best known for co-inventing the integrated circuit with Jack Kilby. He was known as "the Mayor of Silicon Valley" because of his contributions to the personal computer.

Education and Early Career

Noyce started inventing at a young age. When he was 12, he and his brother built a boy-sized aircraft which they used to fly from a roof. He also built a radio, motorized his sled, and kept a scrapbook of plans to build many other things. Some of his entrepreneurial efforts included snow shoveling, paper delivery, and flower shop deliveries.

Noyce attended Grinnell College and enjoyed physics. He was suspended for a semester for stealing a farmer's pig for a luau. After graduation and being rejected by the Air Force because he was color blind, he decided to begin a doctoral program in physics at MIT. He obtained a research fellowship that covered his tuition and paid him $122.50 per month.

His dissertation covered the topic of measuring the presence of electrons at the surface of quartz and magnesium oxide. Noyce received research job offers at Bell Labs ($7,500) and IBM ($7,300) but went to work at Philco, a manufacturer of radios and TVs, for $6,900. After two years he moved to Shockley Semiconductor in California.

Semiconductor Success

Noyce clashed with Shockley, his boss and one of the inventors of the transistor. When he lost out on recognition for his research on negative-resistance diodes, he and seven other researchers known as the "traitorous eight" decided to form their own company. Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation was founded in September 1957. Noyce developed seven patents within 18 months of forming the company. On April 25, 1960 he was granted a patent for a "Semiconductor Device-and-Lead Structure", also known as an integrated circuit.

In 1968, Noyce left Fairchild Semiconductor and founded a new company with a friend, Gordon Moore. The new company was incorporated as NM Electronics but later the name was changed to Intel. Intel's first product, introduced in May 1969, was the 3101 Schottky bipolar 64-bit static random access memory (SRAM) chip. The company manufactured the first single-chip microprocessor in 1971. Intel is still the largest producer of semiconductor chips in the world.

Noyce came out of retirement in 1988 to run a semiconductor manufacturing consortium called SEMATECH. He died from heart failure on June 3, 1990.

Awards and Honors:

  • Held 17 patents
  • Franklin Institute's Stuart Ballantine Medal (1966)
  • IEEE Medal of Honor (1978)
  • National Medal of Science (1979)
  • National Medal of Technology (1987)
  • Inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame (1989)
  • Charles Stark Draper Award (1990)
  • Lifetime Achievement Medal during bicentennial of the Patent Act (1990)
  • Google Doodle (2011)

Resources:

Engology - Robert Norton Noyce (deceased 1990)

The Great Idea Finder - Robert Noyce

History Computer - Biography of Robert Noyce (1927-1990)

The New York Times - An Inventor of the Microchip, Robert N. Noyce, Dies at 62

Wikipedia - Robert Noyce

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