facts about Robert Noyce
co-inventor of the Integrated Circuit in 1959.
12, 1927 in Burlington, Iowa
1990 in Austin, Texas
Noyce was born December 12, 1927 in Burlington, Iowa. A noted visionary and natural leader, Robert Noyce
helped to create a new industry when he developed the technology that would eventually
become the microchip. Noted as one of the original computer entrepreneurs, he founded two
companies that would largely shape todays computer industryFairchild
Semiconductor and Intel.
Bob Noyce's nickname was the "Mayor of Silicon
Valley." He was one of the very first scientists to work in the area --
long before the stretch of California had earned the Silicon name -- and he ran two of the
companies that had the greatest impact on the silicon industry: Fairchild Semiconductor
and Intel. He also invented the integrated chip, one of the stepping stones along
the way to the microprocessors in today's computers.
Noyce, the son of a preacher, grew up in
Grinnell, Iowa. He was a physics major at Grinnell College, and exhibited while there an
almost baffling amount of confidence. He was always the leader of the crowd.
This could turn against him occasionally -- the local farmers didn't approve of him and
weren't likely to forgive quickly when he did something like steal a pig for a college
luau. The prank nearly got Noyce expelled, even though the only reason the farmer
knew about it was because Noyce had confessed and offered to pay for it.
While in college, Noyce's physics professor
Grant Gale got hold of two of the very first transistors ever to come out of Bell
Labs. Gale showed them off to his class and Noyce was hooked. The field was
young, though, so when Noyce went to MIT in 1948 for his Ph.D., he found he knew more
about transistors than many of his professors.
After a brief stint making transistors for the
electronics firm Philco, Noyce decided he wanted to work at Shockley Semiconductor.
In a single day, he flew with his wife and two kids to California, bought a house, and
went to visit Shockley to ask for a job -- in that order.
As it was, Shockley and Noyce's scientific
vision -- and egos -- clashed. When seven of the young researchers at Shockley
semiconductor got together to consider leaving the company, they realized they needed a
leader. All seven thought Noyce, aged 29 but full of confidence, was the natural
choice. So Noyce became the eighth in the group that left Shockley in 1957 and
founded Fairchild Semiconductor.
Noyce was the general manager of the company and
while there invented the integrated chip -- a chip of silicon with many transistors all
etched into it at once. Fairchild Semiconductor filed a patent for a semiconductor
integrated circuit based on the planar process on July 30, 1959. That was
the first time he revolutionized the semiconductor industry. He stayed with
Fairchild until 1968, when he left with Gordon Moore to found Intel. At Intel he
oversaw Ted Hoff's invention of the microprocessor -- that was his second
At both companies, Noyce introduced a very
casual working atmosphere, the kind of atmosphere that has become a cultural stereotype of
how California companies work. But along with that open atmosphere came
responsibility. Noyce learned from Shockley's mistakes and he gave his young, bright
employees phenomenal room to accomplish what they wished, in many ways defining the
Silicon Valley working style was his third revolution.
Noyce was working to prevent the acquisition of
a Silicon Valley materials supplier by a Japanese concern when he died unexpectedly of a
heart attack in July 1990 at his home in Austin, Texas. He was 62 years old.
TO LEARN MORE
Invention of the
Great Idea Finder
from The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Fire: The Birth of the Information Age
by Michael Riordan, Lillian Hoddeson / Paperback: 368 pages / W.W. Norton & Company;
This book is very well written, and does a good job of telling the history of the
invention of the transistor. The book focuses on the technological aspects of the
invention, but also does a great job of telling the story of the personalities, and (now
multi-million dollar) businesses that were involved with the invention.
The Chip: How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a
by T. R. Reid / Paperback - 288 pages (October 9, 2001) / Random House (Paper)
Reid has thoroughly updated The Chip, his 1985 exploration of the life work of inventors
Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, to reflect the colossal shift toward smarter gadgets that has
taken place since then.
The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon
by Leslie Berlin / Hardcover: 402 pages / Oxford University Press (June,
Hailed as the Thomas Edison and Henry
Ford of Silicon Valley, Robert Noyce was a brilliant inventor, a leading
entrepreneur, and a daring risk taker who piloted his own jets and skied
mountains accessible only by helicopter.
Strange Stories, Amazing Facts ( This title is out of print. )
by Readers Digest Editors / Hardcover - 608 pages (1976) / Readers Digest Association
Man's amazing inventions only covers 32 pages.
Those Inventive Americans ( This title is out of print. )
by National Gographic Society / Hardcover - 231 pages (1971) / NGS-Special Pub. Division
ON THE WEB:
A Tale of Two Brains
They were born four years apart in two distant places, and
yet they were destined to start a technological revolution that changed the world. Article
by James Redin
He invented the integrated chip, one of the stepping stones along the way to the
microprocessors in today's computers. Transistorized Series at PBS.
Robert Noyce Biography
received the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1978, "For his contributions to the
silicon integrated circuit, a cornerstone of modern electronics.
From the IEEE History Center.
Robert Noyce: A Life Celebrated
The life of Intel co-founder Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated
circuit, is illustrated from childhood into adulthood, tracing his
career from Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel to Silicon Valley
statesman. From the Intel Museum.
Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame
Consumer Electronics Association Award to Robert Noyce in 2000.
National Inventors Hall of Fame
The Patent No. 2,981,877 for Semiconductor Device-and-Lead
Structure Integrated Circuit was granted to Robert Noyce, who later, in 1968 founded
INTEL, the company responsible for the invention of the microprocessor. Dr. Noyce was
issued 16 patents in the area of semiconductors.
Robert Noyce Foundation
In addition to the Foundationís continual push to improve teaching and
learning in the content areas of science, math, and literacy, we have
also begun to work in the education policy arena to support our other
Man Behind the Microchip - Author
A modern American success story, The Man Behind the Microchip
illuminates the triumphs and setbacks of one of the most important
inventors and entrepreneurs of our time.
Official Web site for the company co-founded by Robert Noyce in 1968.
DID YOU KNOW?
- He received the National Medal of Science in 1980 and the
National Medal of Technology in 1987.
- Noyce earned his B.S. from Grinnell College in 1949 and his
Ph.D. from MIT in 1953.
- Dr. Noyce was issued 16 patents in the area of
Sources in BOLD Type
October 19, 2006.
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