Transistor Controversy

Yesterday’s post about the Fleming Valve led me to think that the principles of the transistor would be a good follow-up for a Sunday look-see.  Coincidentally, November 17, 1947 is widely acknowledged as the date when Bell Laboratory scientists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain observed the workings of transistor theory.

John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, William Shockley

John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, William Shockley

The gist of the story is that Bardeen and Brattain observed that when an electrical charge was applied to a Germanium crystal, the output power was greater than the input power. Their colleague, William Shockley, deduced the potential of this phenomenon. The trio collaborated over the next few months to investigate the workings of the semiconductor. Shockley then found a way to make the knowledge practical. Thus, William Shockley, working with the observations of John Bardeen and Walter Brattain is thought by Americans to be the father of the transistor.  From then, onward, the semiconductor industry and solid state technology began its life.

As I was investigating the biographies of the three men, I noticed a major glitch in the accepted history of the transistor.  Other scientists from other nations were involved and

The "first" transistor, 1947

The “first” transistor, 1947

could lay a claim to the development of the transistor and semiconductor technology.

The very first field-effect transistor principle was applied for by the Austro-Hungarian physicist Julius Lilienfeld, in Canada, on October 22, 1925. No articles have been found regarding his devices.

Another field-effect transistor device was patented by the German physicist Oskar Heil, little is known about Heil’s devices.  There is scant evidence as to whether or not they were ever fabricated.

Be that is it may, the three Bell Laboratory scientists found themselves in a concert hall in Stockholm, Sweden. Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley were presented the Nobel Prize for research in semiconductors and discovery of the “transistor effect”.  The award sealed the fate of the three names as milestones in the onward progress of science, without so much as a nod to Julius Lilienfeld.

Not so fast.  There’s still another twist in the transistor tale.  We need to return to 1941 in the Ukraine, USSR. As in many areas of that era, there was competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Vadim Lashkarev

Vadim Lashkarev

Vadim Lashkarev carried out several successful experiments in the late 1930s. He discovered something called the “p-n junction”, that is positive-negative junction. The roots of a new device called the “transresistor” later shortened to “transistor” were given their Soviet beginnings.

By 1950. Lashkarev co-authored an article with V.I Lyashenko, “Electronic States on the Surface of a Semiconductor”. The study led to developments of integrated circuits based upon field transistors. Further research, in the early 1950s, by Lashkaryov and students at the Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR in Kiev, ironed out chemical problems with Germanium crystals. From these developments, came the large scale of industrial production in the Soviet Union of solid state diodes and transistors.

So we see that the birth of Intelligence Technology is more of a series of events rather than a singular discovery made in one laboratory in one nation. Simply out of convenience and as a matter of convention, do we still think of today, as the anniversary of the dawn of the IT Age.


The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers disobeying his parents by enjoying late night music provided by a small, transistor radio.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Gadgets, History, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Transistor Controversy

  1. gpcox says:

    I HAVE that radio! I think most great inventions were a collaboration of ideas tossed about by extraordinary people – who gets credit for it – goes to the one fastest to the patent office.

  2. swabby429 says:

    This has been a really handy radio. 🙂 Yes, swiftness to the application process gets the credit. History is proving so.

  3. Doug says:

    The transistor as well as fiber optic cable was back engineered from the space ship that crashed near Roswell, NM. Everyone knows that! 🙂

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