- Published: Monday, 21 July 2014 11:59
John Bardeen -- Co-Grandfather of the Information Age
by Arlissa Vaughn
Listed as one of Life Magazine's "100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century,"[i] John Bardeen was honored with two Nobel Prizes in Physics, a 1971 IEEE Medal of Honor [ii], and status as Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois[iii] during his notable life. Of the two Nobel Prizes that Bardeen won, the first was shared with two other engineers for the invention of the transistor -- perhaps the single most significant component of electrical and computer engineering.[iv]
Before the introduction of the tiny transistor, vacuum tube amplifiers were used in various modules for the operation of computerized systems. Not only taking up large amounts of space, but also putting off high levels of heat, these fragile glass components caused slow development in the field of computer electronics.
Bell Labs was inspired to find a solution to this issue and established a team of scientists to create a solid-state alternative to the bulky vacuum tubes currently in use. In 1947, Bardeen and Walter Brattain created the first point-contact transistor. Also part of the Bell research team, William Shockley then improved the design. Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley together received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956 for their groundbreaking development of the transistor.[v]
Today all electronic devices contain transistors. This petite-sized invention made possible the giant-sized Information Age -- a golden era of the global exchange of ideas and technologies as a result of quickly developed and implemented technology and concepts.
Bardeen, along with the other researchers who created the transistor, likely had little idea how infinitely far this invention would take humanity; in all fairness, Bardeen could be called a co-grandfather of the Information Age.
Since that time, improved variations of the original transistor have been made, allowing more rugged and reliable applications such as found in the AEGIS lineup of power supply products. Thanks, John Bardeen, for your valuable and useful contributions to the world of electrical engineering!
[i] " Life Lists 20th Century's Most Influential Americans." Deseret News. September 1, 1990. Retrieved 4/22/2014.
[iii] " John
Bardeen: An Inventory of the John Bardeen Papers at the University of Illinois Archives." University of Illinois Archives. Retrieved 6/30/2014.