St. Clair Kilby
was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, on November 8, 1923, and grew up in Great Bend, Kansas. His father was president of the local power company, and Jack often accompanied him on service calls. In 1937, a severe ice storm brought down many power and phone lines, and the elder Kilby, with Jack in tow, met with several area ham radio operators to establish a communications network in order to determine where service was out. Jack was so intrigued by the experience that he got his own operator's license, built his own transmitter, and set up his own ham radio operation.
After graduating from Great Bend High School, Kilby received his Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois (1947), and his Master's from the University of Wisconsin (1950). In 1947, while studying at Wisconsin, he went to work for Centralab Division of Globe Union, Inc. in Milwaukee, where he designed ceramic silk-screen circuits for electronic devices.
In May of 1958, Kilby left Centralab and joined Texas Instruments, which offered to let him work on miniaturizing electrical circuits. Working on his own, while most of the other Texas Instruments employees were on summer vacation, Kilby designed and built the first integrated circuit, which he demonstrated to company officials on September 12, 1958. He went on to head teams that built the first military system and the first computer to incorporate integrated circuits, as well as the "Pocketronic," the first pocket-sized calculator, and a thermal printer used in portable data terminals. All total, Kilby held over 60 patents in his own right.
In 1970, Kilby took a leave of absence to work independently on applying silicon technology to generate electrical power from sunlight. He served as Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M University from 1978 to 1984, and retired from Texas Instruments in 1983. He received the National Medal of Science in 1970, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1982, and was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000.
Jack St. Clair Kilby died in Dallas, Texas, on June 20, 2005, after a brief bout with cancer.
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This page was last updated on 05/12/2011.