SMEC Memorial - Bardeen
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The World Mourns The

Passing Of A Great Physicist

Unfortunately, time removes all great inventors from the world. I was one of those fortunate to have shared some time with John Bardeen during the last months of his life, a memory that I will prize for the rest of my existence.

During our collaboration, John and I edited an article containing his memoirs of his early days at Bell Laboratories regarding the development of the Transistor. John Bardeen was the co-inventor of the transistor along with William Shockley and Walter Brattain.

Frequent letters and phone calls were exchanged to accomplish our effort, and John had hoped to make a trip to Phoenix to view The Southwest Museum of Electricity and Communications, a museum dealing with electricity and electronics communication that is sponsored by The Computer Exchange.

This article covering the development of the Transistor was published in VINTAGE ELECTRICS, the yearly publication of the museum. The entire 82 page publication dealt with sold state technology development in the early days of it's beginning.

In one conversation, John told me that he would be submitting his manuscript in type written form. I asked if there was a chance that he could send it to me on disk, but he replied that his grandchildren used a word processor on a computer but that he did not... At that point I reminded him, that without his efforts developing the transistor we would not have small computers, he merely chuckled in a soft voice... I could indeed envision a smile of satisfaction on his face as that soft chuckle passed on the wires of the telephone line!

John Bardeen was regarded by the people at Bell Laboratories as the most brilliant of the development group that worked on the invention of the transistor. I found, through interviewing co-workers, that he was soft spoken and well liked by his
John Bardeen, standing at left; Walter Brattain to the right; and William Shockley seated at the microscope.

This photo was on the cover of the Bell
San Jose Mercury News 1/31/91
San Jose Mercury News 1/31/91
John Bardeen in his later years next to a prototype of the transistor

John Bardeen, Transistor Pioneer Dies at 82 (Added since release of V.E. on Dec. 1990)
John Bardeen, co-inventor of the transistor at made possible virtually every modern electronic device, died Jan. 30, 1991 of a heart attack.

Mr. Bardeen, 82, a two-time Noel Prize winner, died in Boston here he was consulting specialists about health problems, the university of Illinois said.

A professor emeritus and faculty member at the university since 1951, Mr. Bardeen won the Nobel prize in physics in 1956 as co-inventor of the transistor.

He won a second Nobel in 1972 for co-development of the theory of superconductivity at low temperatures.

Mr. Bardeen was the last surviving member of the three-member Bell Telephone Laboratories team that developed the transistor in 1947. Walter Brattain died in 1987 and William Shockley died in 1989.

"A giant has passed from our midst," University of Illinois Chancellor Morton Weir said. "It is a rare person whose work changes the life of every American. John's did."

The transistor replaced vacuum tubes in radios, television sets and other consumer products, as well as in computers and communication devices.

Mr. Bardeen later told a reporter, "I knew the transistor was important, but I never foresaw the revolution in electronics it would bring."

His work on the theory of low temperature superconductivity, in which electricity travels with little or no resistance, helped researchers develop such practical uses as magnetic imaging techniques for medical diagnosis.

Associates said Mr. Bardeen considered the superconductivity theory his greatest scientific achievement, although he doubted it would have the economic effect of the transistor.

After teaching at the University of Minnesota and doing research at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Washington, Mr. Bardeen joined the newly formed research group in solid-state physics at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ.

Edward Sharpe: CEO of Computer Exchange and curator of SMEC.

 

 

 
 

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