Nobel Prize in Physics 1956

John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley won the 1956 Nobel Prize for physics for their work on the transistor, the basic building block of today's radios, televisions, computers and other electronic devices.

Learn about the complete history of the transistor.
- Ira Flatow, Transistorized! on PBS



Bardeen, John
bah(r)deen
(1908–91)
Physicist, born in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. He studied electrical engineering at Wisconsin University, and mathematical physics at Princeton (1936). After World War 2, he joined a new solid-state physics group at Bell Telephone Laboratories, where with Walter Brattain and William Shockley he developed the point-contact transistor (1947), for which they shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956. Professor at Illinois University (1951–75), with Leon Cooper and John Schrieffer he received the Nobel Prize for Physics again in 1972 for the first satisfactory theory of superconductivity (the Bardeen–Cooper–Schrieffer or BCS theory), thereby becoming the first person to receive the Nobel Prize for Physics twice.

Brattain, Walter H(ouser)
(1902–87)
US physicist, born in Amoy, China, where his father was a teacher. He grew up on a cattle ranch in the State of Washington, and studied at the universities of Oregon and Minnesota. In 1929 he joined Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he worked as a research physicist on the surface properties of semiconductors. With Bardeen and Shockley he developed the point-contact transistor, using a thin germanium crystal. He shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956.

Shockley, William B(radford)
(1910–89)
Physicist, born in London, England, UK. He studied at the California Institute of Technology and Harvard, began work with Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1936, and became professor of engineering at Stanford in 1963. During World War 2 he directed US research on antisubmarine warfare. In 1947 he helped devise the point-contact transistor. He then devised the junction transistor, which heralded a revolution in radio, TV, and computer circuitry. He shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956 with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. In his later years Shockley provoked outrage with his racist comments and sterilization schemes for people of low IQ.

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