July 6, 2005 by

Jack Kilby

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Categories: Scientists

jkilby.jpgJack St. Clair Kilby, a Nobel laureate who revolutionized how the world communicates, died on June 20 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 81.
Born in Missouri and raised in Kansas, Kilby grew up with a fascination of electronics. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, then earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree in the same major at the University of Wisconsin.
After developing ceramic-based silk screen circuits for radios, televisions and hearing aids at the Centralab Division of Globe Union in Milwaukee, Kilby moved to Dallas to work for Texas Instruments. The electrical engineer hadn’t labored enough hours to earn a vacation, so while the rest of the TI staff was away from the office, he spent the summer of 1958 inventing the monolithic integrated circuit — the predecessor of the microchip.
Patented in 1959, the “Solid Circuit Made of Germanium” was the first to be fabricated on a single piece of semiconductor material. Unfortunately, germanium was too fragile for the chip to be mass-produced. Five months later, scientists at Fairchild Semiconductor, led by Intel co-founder Robert Noyce, figured out how to embed a transistor onto silicon, which was more durable.
The fingernail-size “circuit-on-a-chip,” replaced the bulky switches and tubes used in the first computing machines. Today, microchips run thousands of electrical devices, including cell phones, computers, video games and microwave ovens. Sales of integrated circuits totaled $179 billion in 2004.
Kilby registered more than 60 U.S. patents during his lifetime. He invented the first computer using integrated circuits, the hand-held calculator and the first thermal printer. A recipient of the National Medal of Science, Kilby taught electrical engineering at Texas A&M University from 1978 to 1984, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1982.
In 1990, the Kilby International Awards were created to honor “unsung heroes and heroines who make significant contributions to society through science, technology, innovation, invention and education.” Kilby won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for laying “the foundation of modern information technology.”
Listen to a Tribute From PBS
Watch Kilby’s Nobel Interview

2 Responses to Jack Kilby

  1. westcott

    I am Joy mongering in honor of Jack Kilby. It was his work that made my Joy mongering journey possible. Thanks Jack! 😉

  2. carol

    He was a good man.He provided many jobs for
    tier’s and a future for the world.May God bless him in his sleep and also bless his family.

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