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Kilby, Jack St Clair

integrated crystalline silicon electronic

(1923– ) US physicist: inventor of the monolithic integrated circuit (the microchip).

Kilby grew up in Great Bend, KS, the son of a senior electrical engineer. Not accepted by MIT, he was drafted for military service and worked on radio; then, after a degree in electrical engineering at Illinois and a master’s degree from Wisconsin, he began his career in electronic circuitry. This career led to his invention of the microchip, the basis of the microelectronics industry, which by 1996 had worldwide sales of $957 billion.

Following first transistor in 1947, Kilby’s invention of the integrated circuit led to powerful high-speed electronics, the effects of which have dominated the last quarter-century and our immediate future. Clearly such silicon chips containing millions of transistors have unlocked pervasive economic and social consequences, above all enhancing existing technologies in many industrial sectors. Cheaply manufactured on a crystalline silicon wafer, they are the building blocks of a myriad of electronic products including computers, microprocessors and mobile phones. The era began in 1947 when Kilby had just graduated and had joined Globe Union Inc. and later Texas Instruments. In July 1958 he invented a means of making a single transistor on a wafer-like sheet of crystalline germanium, using gold connections. Once miniaturized, vast numbers of electronic components could be manufactured in a process similar to photographic development and printing. The density, power, speed and low cost of such integrated circuits have increased exponentially ever since. Kilby has filed over sixty patents and became the director of engineering and technology at Texas Instruments. Five months after Kilby’s original patent, Robert Noyce (1927–90) invented manufacture of such integrated circuits on a crystalline silicon substrate using aluminium connections, which is the method used since for bulk production. Noyce founded Intel in 1968. Kilby shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 2000 with and H Kroemer (1928– ) who also worked in the field of IT.

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