William B Shockley was one of the most famous Scientists that invented the first transistor that changed the world of Electronics. 1
William B Shockley was born on 13th February 1910 in London. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1936 with a bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. He later joins research group at Bell labs in New Jersey where he worked on device electronics and he received his first patent in 1938 for Electron Discharge Device photomultiplier. 1
After the World War II, Shockley returns to Bell labs and joins a certain research group concerning solid state physics which he led with a chemist called Stanley Morgan but the group consisted of a number of people including Walter Brattain, John Bradeen and other technicians. Their priority was to investigate the use of semiconductor technology on the making of solid state amplifiers by looking into using field effects to control current in a semiconductor channel making what is known as today the field effect transistor. 1
However issues broke out i.e. the idea was unable to get into work and this idea had been already been anticipated by Julius Lilienfield in 1930 but work began to pick up when they discovered an evidence of amplification when they found out the effect of point contacts on the semiconductor. Three of the team i.e. Bradeen, Brattain and Gibney submitted their patent for the point contact transistor but Shockley was not included. 1
Because of Shockley’s anger of not being part of the patent, he came up with his own version of the transistor and termed it the “Sandwich” transistor which upon following his own treatise, he worked on his version and developed the junction transistor which was recognized at a press conference on 4th July 1950.1
In 1956, he moved from Bell labs to New Jersey where he set up Shockley semiconductor Company which is now called Silicon Valley. However his later attempts led to quitting of his employees who later set up Fairchild semiconductors and this was followed by building of expertise and setting up of other companies. However still in 1956, he received a Nobel Prize for Physics along with Bradeen and Brattain for their work in the development of the transistor. 1
Contributions to the field of electronics:
In 1947, William Shockley, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen made the first transistor which was a point contact transistor at Bell Labs 1 which set a foundation of more practical transistors. Despite Shockley’s contribution he was not included on the patent because some of his papers included unoriginal material, he came up with the bipolar junction transistor 1 that was more efficient and practical.

The bipolar junction transistor (BJT) made independently by Shockley after he fell out with his team, replaced the vacuum tube in computer designs. Vacuum tubes were bulky and consumed a lot of power. Transistors on the other hand were smaller, reliable, and less prone to burning out and would give off less heat so remarkable improvement happened in computing electronics and this yielded to foundation of integrated circuits and microprocessors being used today. 2
The bipolar junction transistor (BJT) is used to amplify current and because of this reason they are used as amplifiers to come up with a vast application in production of electronics equipment such as mobile phones, televisions, radio transmitters and industrial machines for control. 3 In addition, these transistors also work as switches using the same principle of amplifying current because through this contribution, it is necessary in the working of memory chips. 4
The Shockley Semiconductor Company was one of the first companies in the today called Silicon Valley collapsed but the employees who went their way using the semiconductor technology used it to come up with new innovations which are in use today like the setting up of INTEL, AMD, ARPANET project which later became internet. 5
To clarify more to the above point, two of Shockley’s employees Gordon E.Moore and Robert Noyce founded the modern day Intel Cooperation which has changed the world so much in that many electronics products like the modern laptops, handheld calculators, chipsets, motherboards, flash memory and other communication devices and networks were made through the hands of these cooperation.6
The transistor Shockley invented is still in use today though not in its original form. Field effect transistors are more common in circuits today owing to great ease of their miniaturization. 10
Why Shockley’s transistor had to evolve
The Bipolar Junction transistor had to evolve from Shockley’s design of 1947 to more efficient designs due to the following reasons
Germanium used for the original design had a crystal structure that couldn’t withstand high temperatures so improvement was needed.12
The original BJT also had low thermal stability, complicated base control, produced a lot of noise and had a low switching frequency 7
The transistor has been miniaturized to the extent that billions of them can be fit onto a single chip enhancing the design and development of microchips and microprocessors which have been used in making different technologies like CD players, mobile phones, internet, robots etc. 8
There has been recent development of new Silicon/Silicon-Germanium heterojunction bipolar transistors( HBTs) grown by MBE(molecular beam epitaxy) and MOCVD(metal organic chemical vapor deposition) methods based on silicon substances offer very high speed performance for the next generation Supercomputer applications.9
Most modern transistors such as MOSFETS which despite being less effective than Shockley’s can be more easily miniaturized and easily be used in the making of the microprocessors which are in use today. 10
New transistor materials like graphene have come up by scientists. Graphene-based transistors have been investigated as having ultralow power consumption than other transistor devices and have been seen as a supplement to increasing clock speed of processors. 11
1— Electronics notes William Bradford Shockley Biography https://www.electronics-notes.com/articles/history/pioneers/william-b-shockley-biography.php accessed on 28/8/2018
2—WIKIPEDIA Transistor computer https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transistor_computer accessed on 28/8/2018
3— EL-PRO-CUS (Electronics| Projects | Focus)—Bipolar Junction Transistors Working Principle and Applications https://www.elprocus.com/bipolar-junction-transistors-working-principle-and-applications/ accessed on 31/8/2018
4— Transistors https://www.explainthatstuff.com/howtransistorswork.html accessed on 28/8/2018
5— BUSINESS INSIDER: Animated timeline shows how Silicon Valley became a $2.8 trillion neighborhood https://www.businessinsider.com/silicon-valley-history-technology-industry-animated-timeline-video-2017-5?r=UI&IR=T accessed on 1/9/2018
6— Intel Corporation History- Company History: http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/intel-corporation-history/ accessed on 31/8/2018
7— Semiconductor forum: Advantages and disadvantages of the BJT https://www.semiconductorforu.com/advantages-disadvantages-bjt/ accessed on 28/8/2018
8— Assess the impact of the Transistors on the society with particular reference to their use in microchips and microprocessors. Essay by skyllinka, High school, 12th grade A, December 2006 https://www.writework.com/essay/assess-impact-invention-transistors-society-particular-ref accessed on 31/8/2018
9— Bipolar Junction Transistors – Abstract: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/0-387-37766-2_14 accessed on 28/8/2018
10— PBS: Transistor evolution https://www.pbs.org/transistor/background1/events/trnsevolution.html accessed on 1/9/2018
11—PHYS.ORG: New type of graphene-based transistor will increase the clock speed of processors (May 16 2016, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology)https://phys.org/news/2016-05-graphene-based-transistor-clock-processors.html accessed on 02/9/2018
12– Engineering and technology history wiki: From Germanium to Silicon https://ethw.org/Archives:From_Germanium_to_Silicon,_A_History_of_Change_in_the_Technology_of_the_Semiconductors accessed on 01/9/2018