Noble Prize in Physics in Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

The title of his patient was "Method and apparatus for controlling electric currents, yet the Noble Prize did not go to him. Probably the industry of that time did not realize the importance of his discovery. (Transistor: History and Development)

Serious research on semiconductors started only after the Second World War had started and that was due to the recognition then that the devices made from semiconductors could be used as direct replacements for the vacuum tubes that were then being used. The devices made from semiconductors were expected to be lighter, smaller and requiring much less power. The first group of scientists to take interest in this development was the radar systems scientists and the radars were viewed as being very important in the war. The initial discovery of transistors was also not the end and in 1950 itself, Shockley built a new system which was called a bipolar junction transistor and this immediately took over from the point contact transistors as the bipolar devices were more reliable, easier and cheaper to build. They also gave more consistent results. (Transistor: History and Development)

The reason for development of transistors into Integrated circuits was very common and this happened after transistors had taken over from vacuum tubes in all items where these were being used - from radios to phones and onto computers. Part of the development was required by the inventing organization itself, but the development was very fast. Yet the manufacturers of the final products wanted something more. The reason for this was that transistors were smaller than vacuum tubes, but they were not small enough for all development. This trend continues even today as we can see that all items are becoming smaller and developing new facilities within the instruments. The other point was in the reduction of size of the transistors as they could not be reduced in size beyond a point. The size was becoming limited by the production capacities of steady hands and small tweezers. This forced the scientists to go to the next step forward, making a whole circuit in one effort containing transistors, wires and all connections. This started the industry on the path of building an entire circuit out of one single crystal. This made it of a very small size. (Development of the Integrated Circuit)

Let us now see the forecasts made by the inventors at the time of the Nobel Prize. They had noted that the junction transistor operated much more flexibly in terms of power than vacuum tubes. This was of great importance as it was felt that junction transistors could be used more efficiently and especially in cases where the power level to be amplified was much lower than the heater current required in the vacuum tubes. The reduction in power was thought to be possible due to the requirement of low voltages for operating junction transistors. These also could be made very small and made with material of a high degree of purity the current due to generation could be smaller that a microampere. It was thus viewed that the same junction transistor could operate voltages as high as 10 volts and currents of the order of 10 mA. Thus the power range could be of the order of 100,000. Yet the final comment was "there will probably be a much smaller diversity of transistor types than there are of vacuum tube types." (Transistor technology evokes new physics) This is the problem of operating with limited knowledge, even with Nobel laureates.


After 50 years we know that the world has changed totally with this invention and Intel now produces billions of transistors in its integrated circuits, and a lot of money changes hands. The discoverers Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley earned very little money from the results of their research. The brilliance of Bardeen can be seen clearly from that he won the 1972 Nobel Prize with L.N. Cooper and J.R. Schrieffer for the theory of superconductivity. The only point that can be mentioned is that Shockley started a company which began Silicon Valley.


Brattain, Walter. H. (December 11, 1956) "Surface properties of semiconductors" Nobel

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John Bardeen - Biography" Retrieved at Accessed 7 September, 2005

John Bardeen: 1908-1991" Retrieved at Accessed 8 September, 2005

Shockley, William B. (December 11, 1956) "Transistor technology evokes new physics" Nobel

Lecture Retrieved from Accessed 8 September, 2005

The Miracle Month: The Invention of the First Transistor, November 17-December 23, 1947"

Retrieved at Accessed 7 September, 2005

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1956" Retrieved from: Accessed 7 September, 2005

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