Sunday, April 20, 2008
Stamped #7...John Bardeen, Father Of The Transistor
The Information Age began on the day the transistor was invented. It made possible every modern electrical device and triggered an endless stream of invention that defines the world in which we live. John Bardeen, a UW grad, born and raised in Madison, won the Nobel Prize in Physics twice. Superconductivity had been a puzzle since its discovery in 1908. In 1957, Bardeen and two colleagues, L.N. Cooper and J.R. Schrieffer, proposed the first successful explanation of superconductivity, and in 1972 they were awarded the Nobel prize (Bardeen's second) for the fundamental theory of convectional superconductivity (also known as the BCS theory). This work led to the development of CAT scan and MRI technology. But it was his first Nobel Prize that made such a marked change on the world - In 1956, working with Walter Brattain and William Shockley at Bell Labs, the transistor was invented.
"Bardeen was a man with a very unassuming personality. While he served as a professor for almost 40 years at the University of Illinois, he was best remembered by neighbors for throwing cookouts where he would cook for his friends, many of whom were unaware of his accomplishments. Because he differed radically from the popular stereotype of genius and was uninterested in appearing other than ordinary, the public and the media often overlooked him." John Bardeen died in 1991, a year after being named one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century - a list dominated by Wisconsinites.