Jack St. Clair Kilby Biography (1923-)

electrical engineer and inventor

When he coinvented the integrated circuit, or microchip, Jack Kilby also co-launched the age of modern electronics. He was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, and spent most of his childhood in Great Bend, Kansas. Following in his father's footsteps, Kilby earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1947, his studies having been interrupted by servicein World War II. He went on to earn his master's degree in 1950 from the University of Wisconsin. At this time Kilby was also employed at the Centralab Division of Globe-Union Corporation, where he worked on ideas for manufacturingall parts of an electrical circuit on a single base.

After attending a seminar at Bell Laboratories in 1952 on the newly patentedtransistor, Kilby tried to develop transistor-based hearing aids. Dissatisfied with Centralab's commitment to the use of germanium rather than silicon transistors, Kilby joined Texas Instruments in 1958, which was already working with silicon. At TI, Kilby tackled the problem of miniaturization. While he and his fellow engineers could design ever-more-complex tiny circuits, the vastnumbers of interconnections simply could not be physically made. In 1958, while working virtually alone at TI while everyone else was on vacation, Kilbycame up with the idea of integrating all the parts of a circuit on a single slice of silicon. By September 1998 he had created the first working integrated circuit. He applied for a patent in 1959, and a long battle followed between Kilby/Texas Instruments and Robert Noyce/Fairchild Semiconductor, with Noyce ultimately being granted the IC patent. Nevertheless, Kilby is recognized as an independent coinventor of the microchip.

In 1965, Kilby was put in charge of directing a team at Texas Instruments todevelop the world's first pocket calculator, made feasible by the microchip.Within a year Kilby and his colleagues had a working prototype, and a year later they filed for a patent. Kilby was recognized for his achievements by a steady series of promotions at TI which, however, increasingly distanced him from actual inventing. So, in 1970, Kilby left TI to work as a freelance inventor in North Dallas. He patented a number of diverse devices and engaged in extensive research on photovoltaic cells, served as distinguished professor ofelectrical engineering at Texas A & M University in the 1980s, and headed the Houston Area Research Center. An unhurried, quiet man, Kilby is a classic inventor--a man who loves to take on a difficult problem and stick with ituntil he has found a creative, practical solution. In 1982 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Recent Updates

June 20, 2005: Kilby died on June 20, 2005, at his home in Dallas, Texas, of cancer. He was 81. Source: San Francisco Chronicle, www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/06/22/MNGJ7DC98L1.DTL, June 22,2005.

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