Greatest inventor of the 20th century

Jack Kilby, inventor of the integrated circuit, has passed away. He invented the IC during the summer mass-vacation period at TI just weeks after joining the company and before he’d accrued enough time to take vacation. It happened like this:

The innovation came in August 1958, when Kilby was working alone at a Texas Instruments lab in Dallas. Most of the rest of company was on vacation, but Kilby lacked the seniority to take time off. Instead, he toiled on borrowed equipment and, by September, developed a working prototype.

Robert N. Noyce, co-founder of chip giant Intel Corp., is credited with developing the manufacturing process that made economical the wide-scale production of integrated circuits. Kilby and Noyce bickered for years over the other’s claim to have invented the integrated circuit. Ultimately, the two agreed to share credit. In 1995, Kilby was awarded the Robert N. Noyce Award, the Semiconductor Industry Association’s highest honor. When Kilby won the Nobel Prize, he invited Intel’s other founder, Gordon Moore, to the ceremony as a gesture to the contribution of Noyce, who died in 1990. Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously.

Including Noyce in the honor was classic Kilby, said those who knew him.

This Noyce fellow had some good ideas of his own, but Kilby invented the IC first, fair and square. The last project Kilby worked on was the solar cell, and we’re going to see a lot of those as well.

Kilby was a great man, and the world is a much better place for his having been in it.

One thought on “Greatest inventor of the 20th century”

  1. Surely we’d all know more about him if Mr. Kilby had been named something more colorful, like Buckminster or Einstein. He should have fired his agent or at least sued, the American Way. Yes, I jest. It’s humbling to realize we give so little attention to some one without whom those annoying little cell phones would have stayed forever back home minding the answering machine, and our meals would have to be cooked in real time.

    However, the hazards of buckyballs are being encountered. I never did have time for all this ‘nano’ stuff; see

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