Transistor: Undeserved Nobel Prizes

The 1947 invention of the transistor, Lilienfeld’s remarkable transistor radio of the 1920’s and a surprise – transistors in 1906. It appears that transistors have been around as long as radios?

William Shockley Walter Brattain and John Bardeen

For a transistor history that is eerily like the one that follows visit:
‘Who really invented the Transistor?’
The above article first appeared in Radio Bygones magazine,
Reprinted there by permission from the author, Andrew Emmerson
Andrew Emmerson uncovers conflicting claims and some revisionist history.

I would imagine that by now, every serious researcher is aware that the terrible trio, William Shockley Walter Brattain and John Bardeen (above) did not invent the transistor and did not deserve a Nobel prize. Everyone, that is, except the academics and the skeptics.

Inventor of the Week Archive MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley worked together at Bell Labs in the 1940s for a relatively brief period of time. But their collaboration resulted in one of the most important inventions of the century: the transistor. This device would transform the electronics world and make a major impact on the architecture of computers, helping to put them into the mainstream just a few years later.

I think we are all entitled to an answer to a scientific mystery: Is there anyone at MIT able to do a little research? It may appear to them that a time-honoured practice or tradition of some kind is being destroyed? But scientific scepticism debunks the research of outsiders without a second thought. Let us avoid the double standards and dishonesty.

It would appear that the Franklin Institute disagrees with MIT: “The exact nature of Shockley’s contributions to the development of the transistor remains a subject of controversy, as does the question of how much (if any) credit he should be given for its invention… Shockley’s treatment of Bardeen and Brattain eventually prompted both men to break away from Bell Labs, and severed any good relations between himself and his former colleagues.”

transistor 1John Bardeen says: “Shockley took the lion’s share of the credit in public for the invention of transistor, which led to a deterioration of Bardeen’s relationship with Shockley. Bell Labs management however consistently presented all three inventors as a team. Shockley eventually infuriated and alienated Bardeen and Brattain, and he essentially blocked the two from working on the junction transistor. Bardeen began pursuing a theory for superconductivity and left Bell Labs in 1951. Brattain refused to work with Shockley further and was assigned to another group. Neither Bardeen nor Brattain had much to do with the development of the transistor beyond the first year after its invention.”

 May 1974 Walter Brattain says: “He (Shockley) called both Bardeen and I in separately, shortly after the demonstration, and told us that sometimes the people who do the work don’t get the credit for it. He thought then that he could write a patent, starting with the field effect, on the whole damn thing, to include this.”

20 years earlier in 1931 Julius Edgar Lilienfeld had taken out his first patents on the field effect Julius Edgar Lilienfeldtransistor ((FET)1920s) and the electrolytic capacitor.

Patent, US 1745175 “Method and apparatus for controlling electric current” first filed in Canada on 22.10.1925, describing a device similar to a MESFET also US 1900018 “Device for controlling electric current”. Filed on 28.03.1928, a thin film MOSFET, US 1877140. And an amplifier for electric currents filed on 08.12.1928, a solid state device where the current flow is controlled by a porous metal layer, a solid state version of the vacuum tube.
Then there is US 2013564 “Electrolytic condenser” filed on 29.08.1931

Bardeen again, damning Lilienfeld with faint praise – In an address to the American Institute of Physics in 1988, Bardeen acknowledged the great credit due Lilienfeld for his pioneering efforts to make the semiconductor amplifier. He said, “In the 1920s, Lilienfeld could not have understood the physics of the field-effect semiconductor amplifier, as the quantum theory of solids was still several years away. Nevertheless, he had a good intuitive feel for a new approach to electronics. In Bardeens own words, Lilienfeld had the basic concept of controlling the flow of current in a semiconductor to make an amplifying device. It took many years of theory development and material technology to make his dream a reality.”

Note: A reference to the above is interesting, “the quantum theory of solids was still several years away”. Other authorities state that quantum theory was in place prior to this date, when it suits the purpose, as if it was always part of science and always responsible for electronic discoveries. And yet Wiki has to admit that …the old quantum theory is a collection of results from the years 1900-1925. The theory was never complete or self-consistent, but was a collection of heuristic prescriptions which are now understood to be the first quantum corrections to classical mechanics.
One wonders what theory is responsible for the theft of the ideas of others?

What Bardeen is saying (above), and he is not alone in doing so, is a wonderful example of presentism: That Lilienfeld could not possibly have known what he was doing because he did not understand modern quantum theory. – ‘Had the transistor been invented today, we would have known all about it before it was invented because we now have a theory’. The so called Old Quantum Theory was based upon the old Aether Theory that was debunked to make-way for the inscrutable theories of Einstein that made physics the sole domain of the physicist. Of such mythology, born of circular pseudo-logic, is theoretical physics justified and maintained.

The utter BS here is that Lilienfeld’s transistor had actually worked, long before the time when William Shockley and Gerald Pearson built an operational version (See below), and yet Bardeen quibbles about theory as if it were the only subject of importance. Are we next to be told that from Faraday to Tesla, none of the early pioneers knew what they were doing because they didn’t understand today’s theory? Evaluating past events with present-day values is circular thinking, illogical and not a little crazy. It singularly fails to acknowledge that all our present, modern technology was conceived during and before Lilienfeld’s time and in fact the inventiveness all but ended with the advent of modern physics theories in the 1930’s. The theory that followed was incompatible with the technology, whilst also using the old technology and calling it new. All modern electrical technology is derived from pre-1930’s theory and technology. Nothing has changed as a result of the change in theory, the technology is still working in every home.
See the electron page for further examples of this mode of thought.

Invention prior to theory is now taboo to modern physics and so intuitive invention, as far as physics is concerned is effectively dead in the water. Everyone loses but the physicists who get to keep their lucrative jobs and their abstract theories.

Bell Labs invented the word transistor – yes, it was all a terrible mistake and everyone thought we meant the actual transistor! We find that according to Gerald Pearson “The term transistor was coined by John R. Pierce (of Bell Labs). And, physicist/historian Robert Arns says that “legal papers from the Bell Labs patent show that William Shockley and Gerald Pearson had built operational versions from Lilienfeld’s patents, yet they never referenced this work in any of their later research papers or historical articles.

Wiki: John R. Pierce wrote on electronics and information theory and developed jointly the concept of Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) with his Bell Labs colleagues Barney Oliver and Claude Shannon. He supervised the Bell Labs team which built the first transistor, and at the request of one of them, Walter Brattain, coined the term transistor; he recalled: “The way I provided the name, was to think of what the device did and at that time it was supposed to be the dual of the vacuum tube. The vacuum tube had transconductance, so the transistor would have ‘transresistance.’ And the name should fit in with the names of other devices, such as varistor and thermistor. And. . . I suggested the name ‘transistor.'” John R. Pierce, interviewed for the PBS show “Transistorized!
It seems that Pierce is yet another Bell Labs manager who conveniently forgot about Lilienfeld. Can it be something to do with information theory or just a lack of reliable information?
The Lilienfeld transistor patent 1930Wiki: John B. Johnson was possibly among the first people to make a working field effect transistor, based on Julius Edgar Lilienfeld’s US Patent 1,900,018 of 1928. In sworn testimony to the U.S. patent office in 1949, Johnson reported that “…although the modulation index of 11 per cent is not great,…the useful output power is substantial…it is in principle operative as an amplifier”. On the other hand, in an article in 1964 he denied the operability of Lilienfeld’s patent, saying “I tried conscientiously to reproduce Lilienfeld’s structure according to his specification and could observe no amplification or even modulation.””

The Lilienfeld transistor, and more evidence of a Bell Labs cover-up:
William (Bill) Beaty wrote on Google groups: “Currently the consensus is that J. E. Lilienfeld’s transistors of 1926 were never built, and could not have worked. But every time I read stuff about Lilienfeld, the hair on the back of my neck stands right up. My gut feeling has always been that something is wrong. I’m led to ask, (on) what evidence is this consensus about Lilienfeld based?
In 1981 the semiconductor physicist H. E. Stockman said “Lilienfeld demonstrated his remarkable tubeless radio receiver on many occasions, but God help a fellow who at that time threatened the reign of the tube.” See Bell Labs Memorial: ‘Who really invented the transistor?’, starting at “Oscillating Crystals”:

Lilienfeld Transistor Radio Circuit

Briefly: In 1964 a physicist V. Bottom asked in Physics Today magazine whether Lilienfeld’s transistors worked, and J. B. Johnson of Bell Labs responded saying that he’d tested them and they didn’t. This then is probably the origin of the story that Lilienfeld never had any working hardware. An apparently trustworthy physicist (well known, of Johnson Noise fame) said so.

Then in 1995 R. G. Arns found a 1948 Bell Labs patent deposition by Johnson which said the opposite: that Bell Labs back then had a project to test Lilienfeld’s transistors, and before Johnson took over the project, Shockely and Pearson had built a variation of Lilienfeld’s aluminum oxide MOSFET from his patent and found only an 11% modulation index, but that “useful power output is substantial” And then they published a paper about this result. After Shockley/Pearson’s success, Johnson had tested the other two Lilienfeld patents and was unable to replicate them …so Johnson was only dishonest by omission, by covering up the fact that Bell Labs well knew that Lilienfeld had something real. Between these times B. Crawford in 1991 built successful but unstable Lilienfeld MOSFETs as his MS dissertation, and saw evidence that Lilienfeld must have built similar devices. In 1995 J. Ross built stable Lilienfeld MOSFETs. In addition to all this, a 1934 patent by Oskar Heil exists for another thin-film MOSFET.
The author makes very telling statements about the honesty of these physicists: “Published scientific, technical, and historical papers by these Bell scientists never mention either Lilienfeld’s or Heil’s prior work.”

“Why did Bell Laboratories personnel fail to acknowledge the earlier work of persons such as Lilienfeld and Heil? None of the Bell publications on transistors carries a reference to their work, not even the 1948 paper in which Shockley and Pearson demonstrated the field-effect experimentally. We also have J. B. Johnson’s 1964 public response to Virgil Bottom compared to the admission contained in his 1949 affidavit filed in support of patent proceedings: the 1964 statement, by failing to mention Shockley and Pearson’s 1948 confirmation of Lilienfeld’s US Patent No. 1,900,018, appears to have been deliberately misleading. The official history of the Bell System electronics work mentions Lilienfeld’s and Heil’s patents only in endnotes to a footnote. The footnote speaks of earlier patents which ‘date back to the 1920s‘ and states that ‘apparently all attempts to realise these concepts were futile[33]. In 1988, John Bardeen finally admitted that ‘He [Lilienfeld] had the basic concept of controlling the flow of current in a semiconductor to make an amplifing device”[34]. It seems possible that Shockley et al. had given up on the MOSFET idea due to surface problems; otherwise the admission, in Johnson’s affidavit, that the Shockley and Pearson experiment corresponded to Lilienfeld’s patent, would not have been so easy. It is also likely that they were silent and/or dismissive in their own publications and utterances in order to bolster their patent applications and to minimise challenges to their priority.”

One is led to wonder what the 1956 Nobel prize committee would have thought had they known that Lilienfeld had built a functioning pre-1940 transistor radio, and that Shockley had avoided referencing Lilienfeld’s work in his 1948 paper announcing that Lilienfeld’s FET transistors gave substantial gain.!topic/

The sceptics in the newsgroup gave Beaty the usual but not unexpected response: “Please don’t post this type of garbage spam on the SED and SEB newsboards. It’s your choice for posting on the others if you wish to let the world know you’re an idiot.”

If we click at the top of the Wiki page “WikiTalk” we find what the (at the time of writing) organised and ultra sceptical Wiki editors have to say:
“Nominate for Deletion?” “The subject does not appear to be even remotely notable. The only references in the article are to the subject’s own personal web page. Is this article a good candidate for deletion?Urgent01 (talk) 03:11, 7 March 2014 (UTC)
The two urls you mentioned are just Bill’s personal web site. They do not count toward notability at all. Lacking any reputable independent sources, I think the article should be deleted.Urgent01 (talk) 01:28, 10 March 2014 (UTC)
WJ Beaty “hand drawn holograms” published paper (invited paper, 2003 holography conference) [SPIE site]

Literature citations to “personal web site:” Traffic waves [via google scholar], Holograms [via google scholar], Electricity [via google scholar] (talk) 05:13, 1 May 2014 (UTC)” and so it goes on…
This is how the skeptics deal with those who threaten their position. When someone tells the truth about science, education or scepticism, the skeptics want him out, they want to delete his Wiki reference because his opinions go against conventional teaching and throw doubt onto scepticism as a bona-fide discipline of science, something it can never be because it is subject to emotion and personal bias. Scepticism can never be a scientific discipline because every sceptic (or even skeptic) has his or her own opinion as to what the individual should be sceptical about. The Wiki skeptics don’t understand this and like all religious organisations they think they are the only ones with a key to the truth.

The Wiki page ‘Oskar Heil Field-effect transistor’ as usual frowns upon the imaginative and the inventive with its totally unacceptable page on Heil as being: “sometimes mentioned as an inventor of an early transistor-like device, based on several patents that were issued to him.”
(It was a transistor because it did the things that transistors are supposed to do).

And then we have Wiki: ‘History of the transistor’: “In 1934 German physicist Dr. Oskar Heil patented another field-effect transistor. There is no direct evidence that these devices were built, but later work in the 1990s show that one of Lilienfeld’s designs worked as described and gave substantial gain. Legal papers from the Bell Labs patent show that William Shockley and a co-worker at Bell Labs, Gerald Pearson, had built operational versions from Lilienfeld’s patents, yet they never referenced this work in any of their later research papers or historical articles. Is this one that the editing revisionist skeptics missed?

Figures from Oskar Heil’s British patent of 1935. The insulated gates are shown as reference number 6, with connection terminals 7, 7′, and 7″

Patent, GB 439457 Oskar Heil: “Improvements in or relating to electrical amplifiers and other control arrangements and devices” first filed in Germany on 02.03.1934″

In 1938 Robert Pohl and Rudolf Hilsch experimented on potassium-bromide crystals with three electrodes at Gottingen University, Germany. They reported amplification of low-frequency (about 1 Hz) signals, but their research did not lead to any applications.

Oskar Heil – Wiki update

Oskar Heil

Oskar Heil (20 March 1908 – 1994, San Mateo, California) was a German electrical engineer and inventor. He studied physics, chemistry, mathematics, and music at the Georg-August University of Göttingen and was awarded his PhD in 1933, for his work on molecular spectroscopy.

Field-effect transistor
Heil is mentioned as the inventor of an early transistor-like device (see also History of the transistor), based on several patents that were issued to him.[3][4]

JFETS: The New Frontier states: “Field-effect transistors (FETs) have been around for a long time; in fact, they were invented, at least theoretically, before the bipolar transistors. The basic principle of the FET has been known since J.E. Lilienfeld’s US patent from 1930,[5] and Oscar Heil described the possibility of controlling the resistance in a semiconducting material with an electric field in a British patent in 1935.”

Arns, R.G.
This paper appears in: Engineering Science and Education Journal Publication Date: Oct 1998
Volume: 7, Issue: 5 On page(s): 233-240 ISSN: 0963-7346 References Cited: 36
CODEN: ESEJEJ INSPEC Accession Number: 6074651
Posted online: 2002-08-06 22:06:18.0
The silicon metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET or MOS transistor) did not become significant commercially until two decades after the 1948 announcement of the invention of the transistor by Bell Laboratories. The underlying concept of the MOSFET-modulation of conductivity in a semiconductor triode structure by a transverse electric field, first appeared in a 1928 patent application. It was confirmed experimentally in 1948. However early devices were not practical due to surface problems. Although these were solved at Bell Laboratories in 1958, Bell remained committed to earlier transistor technology. Development of the `other transistor’ was first pursued elsewhere. It was finally the needs of computers and the opportunities created by integrated circuits that made the silicon MOSFET the basic element of late 20th-century digital electronics.”
(See Russell Ohl below for “surface problems”)

Oleg Losev
Oleg Losev

In the early 1920s Russia, devastated by civil war, Oleg Losev was experimenting with applying voltage biases to various kinds of crystals, with purpose to refine the reception. The result was astonishing – with a zincyte (zinc oxide) crystal he gained amplification…(which is what the transistor is all about) After the first experiments, he built regenerative and superheterodyne receivers, and even transmitters. However, this discovery was not supported by authorities and soon forgotten and no device was produced in mass quantity beyond a few examples for research. Crystadine (zinc oxide crystal) was produced in primitive conditions; it can be made in a rural forge – unlike vacuum tubes and modern semiconductor devices.
The idea that a transistor can be produced in primitive conditions is totally absurd to a skeptic Wiki editor who once a day faces the direction of MIT and worships the scientific method.

Russell Ohl

Bell Labs’ whistle-blower Russell Ohl’s specialized area of research was into the behaviour of certain types of crystals. He worked on materials research in the 1930s at AT&T’s Bell Labs’ Holmdel facility, investigating diode detectors suitable for high-frequency wireless, broadcasting, and military radar. His work was only understood by a handful of scientists in the organization, one of whom was Dr. Walter Brattain one of the trio who invented the germanium bipolar transistor in 1947, and who would be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956).

An excerpt from Ohl’s testimony: “He gave me a copy that he had of… I think it was The Electrician. It was a British magazine, one of these big-paged things, you know. In it was a translation from a Russian paper in which they had used carborundum with two contacts and a battery supplying one of the contacts and had gotten a power gain of ten times. And this was way back in the 1910s, so the fact that you could get a power gain had been known, but it was never put on a controlled basis.
I knew about it because an operator of the Signal Corps back in 1919 had told me that some of the operators used carborundum as oscillators for receiving. When I had seen this article that Curtis gave me, I was not astounded because I had known about this before I ever saw the article. I had heard about it. I knew a former first sergeant in the Signal Corps who had lived in the boarding house that I lived and he was an expert radio operator.
He told me a great deal about the use of crystal detectors on ships. He told me that professional operators carried two crystal detectors with them. One of them was made of carborundum and one of them was something like galena or something of that sort. He said the carborundum was used for two purposes. They used it in the harbour when they were close to a transmitter to prevent burnout. They also used it at long distances with two points. One point was excited with a battery and they were able to get long wave oscillations out of it and in that we were able to be in long wave telegraph stations. tells us “By its nature the crystal rectifier was a passive device, with no signal gain. But radio historian Lawrence A. Pizzella WR6K notes anecdotal stories of shipboard wireless operators in the second decade of the 20th century achieving amplification using a silicon carbide (carborundum) crystal and two cats whiskers (see Robert Adam’s device below). He cites a taped interview made in 1975 with Russell Ohl at his home in Vista, California in which claims of signal gain(s) were made. This is an excerpt from Ohls testimony:… (see below for extract)
…Its perfectly clear that Bell Labs didn’t invent the transistor, they re-invented it. The fact that they totally failed to acknowledged the pioneer work done by others can be explained by human nature, pride, arrogance, ignorance or plain self-interest. Its perfectly true that the world wasn’t ready for previous incarnations of the transistor but that was no reason for denying that Lilienfeld patented the original solid-state triode oscillator/amplifier well before others claimed all the credit. But thats life; it was not the first time and doubtless not the last.”

Ohl, it should be noted, was the man who invented the silicon solar cell in 1941 and discovered during World War II that semiconductors could be doped with small amounts of impurities to create useful new properties. Born in 1889, he was bitten by the radio bug at the age of 16 and devoted much of his life to making simple radio receivers employing semiconductors. His accidental discovery of the P-N barrier in his work at Bell Telephone Laboratories led to the development of solar cells.

Russel Ohl on quantum theory


Shockley introduced this theory at Bell. I wasn’t trained in it. I had to depend on the old theories. I was trained in electrochemistry. They had theories about how these things behaved and I had to use that, and I used that very successfully. In fact, it wouldn’t have been necessary to use the quantum theory. We could have made the same developments with electrochemical theory.


My studies indicate that the quantum theoretical work of Bardeen and others was crucial in the development of the transistor.


I knew Bardeen. He was the only man who could really understand what I was saying. He was talking in quantum terms and we finally agreed that we were talking about the same thing but using different language.

The Crystodyne Principle, Radio News, September, 1924, pages 294-295, 431: Several experimenters have observed that some contacts, such as crystal and metal or crystal and carbon generally employed as detectors may produce undamped oscillations of any frequency, exactly as the vacuum tube oscillator. The same contact may also be utilized as an amplifier. Oscillating crystals are not new since they were investigated as far back as 1906 by well known engineers, but it was not until lately that a Russian engineer, Mr. O. V. Lossev, succeeded in finding some interesting uses for oscillating crystals. The construction of the apparatus by means of which oscillations may be produced with crystal as a generator seems quite simple and should be of great interest to our readers. Among the numerous contacts studied are pyrite carbon, chalcopyrite-zinc, galena-carbon, or zincite-carbon. The zincite-carbon and zincite-steel contacts seem to be the best producers of strong oscillations. The construction of the contact is similar to an ordinary crystal detector in which a springy piece of wire rests on a crystal. One may use as the cat-whisker a piece of carbon taken from a broken incandescent lamp, the carbon being a piece of the filament; an ordinary piece of steel wire is also suitable.

Below we see another serious and according to Robert Adams successful 1933 attempt to produce a transistor – by Robert George Adams, founder of the New Zealand Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).
Note: There are striking similarities between this experimental method and the method used by Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley. tells us that the (now defunct) website of Dr Robert G. Adams states that he designed a crystal amplifier at the age of thirteen years, when he lived at Hastings, New Zealand. A photograph of his set-up is shown on his website along with the diagram reproduced here with acknowledgement.
Connections to the crystal made use of the then-available vertical cantilever type cat’s whisker holders, providing stable connections to the central junction and input and output points. Two different methods of interconnection between two crystals gave no apparent difference in performance. Adams stresses that it never occurred to him to pursue any patent action simply because the invention was already in the public domain. In his view it was obviously un-patentable by anybody (Bell Labs notwithstanding).

Someone who built a similar amplifier of this kind is Canadian radio amateur Larry Kayser (va3lk / wa3zia), who spotted a circuit for a ‘novel’ crystal radio circuit that exhibited ‘amplification’ published in Gernsback’s magazine ‘Radio’ during the 1932-1934 period. This, he recalls, used two cat’s whisker probes on a lead-mounted galena (PbS) detector. He says he was able to duplicate this action in the early 1950s as a young hobbyist and whilst the degree of amplification was nothing like that of the first commercial transistors, it was at least in the order of 3dB or a bit more.

‘Wireless World and Radio Review’ October 1, 1924 and October 8, 1924 entitled The Crystal As A Generator And Amplifier” by Victor Gabel. The article also includes several regenerative receiver circuits that utilize negative resistance device for both RF amplification and detection.”
“In 1954 an article in Short Wave Magazine in Britain described to readers how they could make their own transistors. This idea has been revived in recent years, thanks to the books of Pete Friedrich (The Voice Of the Crystal and Instruments Of Amplification. On 11th March 2010 Practical Wireless under the editorship of Rob Mannion, G3XFD published an article entitled “Making Home Brew Transistors in the 1950s” by Bill Jarvis, GM8APX, Mr Jarvis was a pupil at Stowe School in the 50s and his physics master John Osborne G3HMO was and is (he is happily still alive) a very practical man….as you will see if you read the article. The link to the PDF now seems to be broken and therefore cannot be included.

Click to access who-really-invented-the-transistor1.pdf This link no longer exists
Russell Ohl Accidentally Discovers the Silicon P-N Junction:
Links to other great transistor sites:

A not very accurate William Shockley history from with a little interesting history:

Shockley had theorized a device using a field effect, but, for reasons no one could figure out, it didn’t work. Bardeen went to work to find out why. On March 19, 1946, Bardeen had his epiphany, a theory that explained the failure. He and Brattain immediately went to work to build on that insight. Curiously, Shockley did not. Although he was administrative leader of the team, he essentially went home to work on his own ideas, leaving Bardeen and Brattain on their own. Big mistake.
The two men worked feverishly through the summer and autumn, Shockley dropping by irregularly to see what they were doing, making an occasional suggestion, aiming them in certain directions. The breakthrough came in November and on December 16, 1947, Brattain and Bardeen produced the point-contact transistor. That month came to be called “The Miracle Month” in Bell Labs lore.

The team breaks up
Shockley was both proud of their accomplishment and furious that they had succeeded where he had failed. A few weeks later, holed up in a hotel room in
Chicago, where he was attending the American Physical Society convention, he leapfrogged the point-contact device by inventing and designing the sandwich transistor. The sandwich transistor, and the more advanced junction transistor that would be developed from it, were easier to mass produce and are still used today for special applications.

This put Bell Labs in a quandary. The administration knew something important had happened, but Bardeen and Brattain had produced the first transistor on their own. Shockley was head of their team and it seemed unseemly that he not get credit, especially since he had produced an even better device. Hence, the lab ruled that every picture taken of the inventors of the transistor must include William Shockley. He also would be the official spokesman; Bardeen and Brattain were not interested in publicity. Shockley did not protest, but the imposition by management quickly rankled his colleagues, both of whom had already developed a healthy dislike for Shockley.”
The authors opinion on the above is that Shockley was working on a Lilienfeld type, FET transistor at home whilst Bardeen and Brattain worked on, and eventually got working, the point contact transistor. He had not “produced an even better device” because his device did not work. Had it worked he would probably have received a second Nobel award.

Shockley industries from In 1956, William Shockley opened Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory as a division of Beckman Instruments in Mountain View, California; his plan was to develop a new type of “4-layer diode” that would work faster and have more uses than then-current transistors. At first he attempted to hire some of his former colleagues from Bell Labs, but none were willing to move to the West Coast or work with Shockley again. Instead he founded the core of the new company with what he considered the best and brightest graduates coming out of American engineering schools.
Only a year later, the staff of eight engineers decided to leave Shockley and form their own company. The group later became known as the traitorous eight. The eight men were Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Sheldon Roberts. Looking for funding on their own project, they turned to Sherman Fairchild’s Fairchild Camera and Instrument, an Eastern U.S. company with considerable military contracts. In 1957 the Fairchild Semiconductor division was started with plans on making silicon transistors at a time when germanium was still the most common material for semiconductor use.”

Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory 1956: Shockley hit upon the idea of using a four-layer device (transistors are three) that would have the novel quality of locking into the “on” or “off” state with no further control inputs. He became convinced that the new device would be just as important as the transistor, and kept the entire project secret, even within the company. This led to increasingly paranoid behaviour; in one famed incident he was convinced that a secretary’s cut finger was a plot to injure him and ordered lie detector tests on everyone in the company. This was combined with Shockley’s vacillating management of the projects; some times he felt that getting the basic transistors into immediate production was paramount, and would de-emphasize the Shockley diode project in order to make the “perfect” production system. This upset many of the employees, and mini-rebellions became commonplace.
Shockley never managed to make the four-layer diode a commercial success, in spite of eventually working out the technical details and entering production in the 1960s.

Also In 1956, Shockley formed a team of talented young professionals to develop and produce new semiconductor devices. Being a Nobel Laureate in Physics and an experienced researcher and teacher, he failed as a manager; he chose, as it turned out, a hopeless strategy and created an intolerable working atmosphere. In March 1957, those who disagreed with Shockley began negotiations to form a separate company, and in August reached an agreement with Sherman Fairchild. The formal break occurred on September 18, 1957. The newly founded Fairchild Semiconductor soon grew into a leader of the semiconductor industry; in 1960 it became an incubator of Silicon Valley, and was directly or indirectly involved in the creation of dozens of corporations such as AMD, Intel and Zilog.”

Footnote on Shockley: “Shockley watched as Silicon Valley grew but could not seem to enter The Promised Land he had envisioned. He never was able to make field effect transistors, while other companies designed, grew, and prospered. Fred Seitz called Shockley “The Moses of Silicon Valley.”

Shockley gave-up on transistors and devoted his time to eugenics – the science of killing people who he decided were not fit to live, like Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Jean Hoerni, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce, and Sheldon Roberts.
Eugenics = mad as a bag of frogs: Shockley expressed concern that the black population would become progressively less intelligent, countering all the gains that had been made by the Civil Rights movement. Shockley’s views on this topic, expressed in his publications and lectures, were based in part on the work of Cyril Burt. Shockley also proposed that individuals with IQs below 100 be paid to undergo voluntary sterilization.”
But Shockley was not alone in his belief: some better known names include, Charles Darwin, H.G. Wells, Margaret Sanger, Samuel Butler, Plato, Alexander Graham Bell, John D. Rockefeller, Theodore Roosevelt, John H. Kellog, Charles Davenport, Lewis Terman, Adolf Hitler and most of the fascists who followed him. When we look at scientists and Nobel prizewinners the list becomes almost endless…

How Do Transistors Work?
From Bill Beaty at tells: “Most technician textbooks do a very poor job of explaining the details of transistors’ internal workings…
(It was Shockley, no less, who wrote the first one.)
Traditional transistor explanations basically *suck.*
The ones I see in high school textbooks and hobby magazines are terrible. They’re full of errors and contradictions…
First of all, you must abandon the idea that current travels in transistors or flows inside of wires. Yes, you heard me right. Current does not flow. Electric current never flows, since an electric current is not a stuff. Electric current is a flow of something else. (Ask yourself this: what’s the stuff that flows in a river, is it called “current?” Or is it called “water?”)…
Since a current is a flow of charge, the common expression “flow of current” should be avoided, since literally it means “flow of flow of charge.” – MODERN COLLEGE PHYSICS, Richards, Sears, Wehr, Zemanski

Note: This is straight from the mouth of the famous Charles Proteus Steinmetz whom Wiki loves so much, but when repeated by Bill Beaty it is “Nominate for Deletion?”

So what flows inside of wires???
The stuff that moves within wires is not named Electric Current. Instead it is called Electric Charge. It’s the charge that flows, never the current. The motion of charges can vanish, and the motion can appear. But the motion itself doesn’t flow along, it’s the charges which flow. And in rivers (or in plumbing,) it’s the water that flows, not the “current.” According to a current is: “the speed at which such flow moves; velocity of flow.”
And so we see that current describes movement – not the thing that is moving.

Note: Electric current traditionally describes the movement of electrons. But if we return to the “electron” page we find that Wiki is saying that: “AC voltages (as in a transistor circuit) cause no net movement; the electrons oscillate back and forth in response to the alternating electric field …over a distance of a few micrometers.”
and so there is no current (movement of electrons).
Bill Beaty again: “Wires do not act like “empty electron-pipes.” A power supply does not provide any electrons. Power supplies certainly create currents, or they cause currents, but remember, we’re removing that word “current.” To create a flow of charges, a power supply does not inject any charges into the wires. The power supply is only a pump. A pump can supply a pumping pressure. Pumps never supply the water being pumped.”

Brief review:






Read it all at the website.
Any conventional description of how a transistors works is confusing and biased in favour and in support of particle physic, and is not something that should be taught to electronics students. William Shockley et al were theoretical physicists and they did not invent the transistor. There is no official textbook on the face of the planet that tells the truth about how a transistor works.

Panel Says Bell Labs Scientist Faked Discoveries in Physics
By KENNETH CHANG Published: September 26, 2002 NY Times. A series of extraordinary advances in physics claimed by scientists at Bell Labs relied on fraudulent data, a committee investigating the matter reported yesterday. The findings, in effect, dismiss as fiction results from 17 papers that had been promoted as major breakthroughs in physics, including claims last fall that Bell Labs had created molecular-scale transistors. The committee concluded that data in the disputed research, published between 1998 and 2001, had been improperly manipulated, even fabricated, confirming suspicions raised by outside scientists in May. The committee placed the blame for the deceit on one Bell Labs scientist, Dr. J. Hendrik Schön. ”He committed scientific misconduct,” said Dr. Malcolm R. Beasley, a professor of applied physics at Stanford University who headed the committee. ”Nobody else did.” Bell Labs immediately fired Dr. Schön, 32, a scientist who a year ago had been thought to be on a fast path to a Nobel Prize.

Science failure
And so based on the evidence collected it is safe to conclude that transistors have been available ever since the invention of radio. The first radio and the first electronic computer could have been transistorised but for the fact there were no transistors in commercial production. Science had singly failed to spot the possibilities and the electronic industry failed to ask scientists or to do the research themselves, delaying electronic progress for almost fifty years. The reason for this was 1) that the electronic industry was making huge amounts of money from glass triodes and had no intention of giving it up. 2) That scientists are incapable or unwilling to understand anything not included in their existing theories. They only understand electronics in terms of electrons flying across cathode ray tubes in the manner that particle physics prefers. Transistor don’t operate in this fashion and so scientists have to resort to quantum physics that no one understands, in much the same way that Einstein’s relativity is used to baffle our brains, like the emperors new clothes.

This is the reason that Julius Edgar Lilienfeld was able to produce a working radio receiver in 1930. He knew more about how electricity works than today’s scientists. It is the reason why William Shockley was unable to reproduce Lilienfeld’s transistor. It’s the reason Shockley and his team had to steal someone else’s work. Closed minded theory combined with scepticism and scientism is the problem!

Who really invented the transistor?

The Other Transistor

Russel Ohl Session I interview
The above link is no longer available.
Access here, if you can get in:
Read about all the above here:

5 thoughts on “Transistor: Undeserved Nobel Prizes

  1. We are often content to take credit for being the first or the best while knowing in the back of our mind that we probably aren’t. I suppose that’s human nature. There is no doubt quite a list of “Undeserved” historically claimed firsts. For instance:

    Samuel F.B. Morse, one of my heroes but certainly not the real inventor of the telegraph. He even admits, in his own writings, to having seen such devices before making his own. He certainly had a hand in developing the modern Morse Code, which I speak fluently.

    Philo Farnsworth – the inventor of television. Oh really?

    The Wright brothers – first in flight. Really? Possibly, but maybe not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi again Gary
      Thanks for the links, I’ll take a look at them.. Samuel Morse looks interesting, it’s the kind of history I like to collect.
      “Undeserved” is usually reserved for someone who gets a Nobel prize for stealing someone else’s work.

      “Who is the inventor of television?” is a very good question and there are those who give credit way back to JJ Thomson and a long list of other scientific tinkerers. But none of them was interested in adding pictures to radio. They wanted to make a name for themselves by inventing the electron and the new science of particle physics. None of the physicists saw the CRT’s potential as a picture tube. “1922 Philo T. Farnsworth used a magnet to focus a stream of electrons onto a screen, producing a crude image. Though the first of its kind, Farnsworth’s invention was quickly superseded by Vladimir Zworykin’s kinescope.”
      But the problem with this is that Vladimir Zworykin’s kinescope didn’t work and so we are back with Farnsworth as the first.

      Farnsworth also predicted flat screen TV back in 1957. What he was lacking, like the computer developers, was a decent memory device. It seems that a memory much like the memory used today was built into a 1940’s late model Colossus code breaker by Post Office engineer Tommy Flowers and kept secret until the seventies. I’ve got the link somewhere but it’s late.



  2. William Beaty’s explanation of transistor functionality is excellent and I likes it. But he give too much emphasis to physicists against engineering. According to him engineers just get the job done without knowing the details where as physicists study under the hood in details.

    Well this is not entirely correct. As most electrical pioneers are non-physicists. Seems he has too much attachment towards the term physicists where as everything he does is related to engineering only.


    1. Hi
      Beaty gets a lot of criticism from the mainstream so I wouldn’t take it too seriously. He used to criticise the physicists but I don’t read much of his stuff these days. He has some original ideas and that’s good but I don’t learn much from him. As for engineers, there’s some stuff about Russell Ohl on the web the guy who doped the crystals for Bell Labs transistors:
      Also on my own page:
      Ohl says they couldn’t have made transistors without his help.


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