Oral History Transcript — Dr. William Shockley
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Interview with Dr. William Shockley
William Shockley; September 10, 1974
ABSTRACT: Born in London 1910; Childhood in Palo Alto, California; undergraduate at UCLA, Caltech, graduate school MIT (Slater, thesis advisor); 1936 to Bell Labs; war related work at Whippany (circa 1 year), patents on radar ideas (Columbia U. Project); fission work with Fisk (National Bureau of Standards); the transistor; Solid State Physics group organized 1945 at Bell Labs under Shockley and Stan Morgan.
Hoddeson:This is an interview with Dr. William Shockley, who is at Bell Labs today as a consultant. Is that correct?
Shockley:Well, I also carry a card. I'm here for a period of three weeks at this particular time. About in the middle of…
Hoddeson:You were born in 1910 in London?
Shockley:February 13, 1910, at 69 Victoria St., which is the street that runs between Westminster Abbey and the Victoria Station.
Hoddeson:How old were you when you came to this country?
Shockley:Three years old.
Hoddeson:And where did you go?
Shockley:Palo Alto, California, which is where my mother's mother lived and also Palo Alto, is a desirable place to live. My father was a mining engineer. That was his profession. He was retired, and probably had intended to remain retired. But I think World War I, and the Russian Revolution, and the loss of a sizeable number of Russian bonds meant that sometime later on, he did do some more work as a professor at Stanford.
Hoddeson:You went to school in Palo Alto?
Shockley:In Palo Alto, yes.
Hoddeson:Do you remember any experiences as a child that may have influenced your decision eventually to go into the sciences?
Shockley:Well, the most important single factor having to do with physics was a neighbor who, when we moved from one house to another in Palo Alto in about 1911 or so, I became acquainted with, I don't mean 1911, I mean 1920, 1921 — I became acquainted with his daughters, who were Ruth and Betsy Ross. His name was P. A. Ross, Pearly Ason Ross. He was a professor in the physics department at Stanford, and worked with X-rays. X-rays were the important research tool at the time. And he had two daughters, and took an interest in me and tried to educate me on matters of principles in physics. I was interested in these. I know he tried to explain wave motion to me at that time, and I had a great deal of difficulty in getting any grasp on that at all. But that was certainly where my interest in physics as a subject began to develop. I entered high school a couple of years later. I finished grammar school at the age of 12. I was an only child, and my family started to make plans to make a trip to Europe, but my father had medical examinations and found he had high blood pressure, and it was thought that it would be unwise to take such an extended trip. We went to New York and traveled around the country for the order of a year, there, and then arrived in Hollywood. There I went Hollywood High School. I graduated from Hollywood High School. I've forgotten exactly what the sequence was. There were some irregularities in my educational experience. I think my mother and father did some teaching of me at home. As a matter of fact, that had gone on — I didn't enter school until I was 8 years old. My father was an enthusiast for simplified spelling, so he had various books on simplified spelling around. I don't remember much about these now. But then I went through grammar school in four years. Then there was a gap there. I guess I was 12 when I got out of grammar school, but I think I didn't enter high school until I was 13 or 14. I got out at 17, I think. I took five years going through college. Having started at UCLA which was then SBUC, the Southern Branch University of California, which was located within walking distance of where I lived — and then after a year there, I went to Caltech and did four years at Caltech.
Hoddeson:What made you switch?
Shockley:From UCLA to Caltech? Well, I don't know. I think my mother may have planned on that, in part, as this being sort of a temporary operation, so I would not get out of college quite so soon. I don't remember clearly why. There was some basis for thinking that it would be Caltech eventually. I don't recall that I felt that UCLA would be somehow a permanent school, when I was going to it, but I can't remember just what the background was.
Hoddeson:Were you already thinking very seriously about becoming a scientist at that time, in college?
Shockley:I'm not absolutely positive about that. I think I was. I think I'd thought I would be a physicist. Well, yes, there were some irregular things that did have an influence on that. When I was in high school, I had gone to a sort of an irregular school, the Los Angeles Coaching School, it was called, and took physics there, and had one experience that I'd written up in some articles about science teaching, in which I first began to get a grasp of conversation laws and general principles. I've written up this particular incident, which involved a college entrance board examination on physics, and a rowboat with certain dimensions for the and a certain force being exerted on the oar handles, and the question then, being, how hard could the rowboat pull on a rope if It were moored? The method I used in solving this problem was to calculate the force which the oar blades would exert on the water; and then say that would be equal to the force that the boat would exert on the rope. The physics teacher didn't like this method. He wanted it done by calculating the force which would be exerted by the oarsman's feet on the boat, and he wanted to subtract these two. Then I argued that my way was simpler and had to give the same answer. We never settled this argument. I tried to bring in a university professor I knew as an arbiter on this, and he wouldn't have anything to do with it, which was probably correct — he was an educational psychologist by profession. Then, having gotten into Hollywood High School, I took physics again, and they had some competitive examination at the end, in which the person who did highest on this thing would get his name and grade on a cup or something of this sort, and I came out tops on that. But when they found out it was the second time I'd taken physics, they disqualified me. So I had by that time an impression that maybe I was rather good at this field.
Hoddeson:You majored then in physics at Cal Tech?
Shockley:I majored in physics when I got to Cal Tech. I didn't take physics at UCLA. I took a course in chemistry that year. I don't know whether all freshmen were required to take chemistry or not. I had one experience which gave me some slant on the way large organizations run. I was not allowed to take spherical trigonometry because I'd sprained my ankle.
Hoddeson:How did that happen?
Shockley:Because I'd sprained my ankle, I had an incomplete in gym, phys. ed., and the rule was that if you had an incomplete in anything, you were not allowed to take an overload. I argued with some clerical person in the administration office, and was stopped there. It was an experience which I've remembered since, and advised people not to be stopped at the first point.
Hoddeson:And did you end up learning spherical trig?
Shockley:I never learned spherical trig. I'm sure it's not done me any harm to have missed it. I think we should probably go to lunch at this point...
Hoddeson:We're resuming now, after a break for lunch. Did you major in physics at Caltech?
Shockley:Yes, I did.
Hoddeson:Were any teachers there particularly influential to your career, in a positive or negative sense.
Shockley:Well, I don't believe there were any really influential in a negative sense. There were some in various degrees in positive sense. The major influence on my educational training at Caltech was a consequence of an idea that Linus Pauling had. He had some ideas about European education that he obtained from looking into European education, that maybe the conventional course procedure discipline at Caltech wasn't an optimum one. And this influenced my activities at Caltech for the second two quarters of my junior year. What Pauling proposed was that a student might not take regular courses, but might instead do some sort of special reading or directed reading, and I was the optimum candidate at the time, because in that particular quarter, I must have been very near. the top of the class I was in, in terms of grades for that quarter, whereas in the first two years at Caltech I had not had exceptionally good average grades. I think I was always near the top in the physics class, maybe the math class, but some of the other subjects, such as history, I did not take as seriously. So I was not a competitor for some of the junior traveling scholarships I think they had, but nevertheless was clearly one of the outstanding students. So I remember getting a note left by Pauling, whose name I didn't know, in the student mail box, signed "L. Pauling," a name completely unfamiliar to me, and as I recall, it conjured up some kind of a furry animal. But I became acquainted with Pauling after that, and the project that I became involved in was studying Dirac's book on quantum mechanics with someone who was at Caltech in some capacity that's not really clear to me now — maybe a research associate — called Boris Podolsky. And so I spent two quarters trying to make some kind of sense out of Dirac's book. Actually, I'm not sure I got an awful lot out of that. I was impressed with the neatness with which Dirac did the harmonic oscillator, without having to get into wave functions at all. That was a very beautiful thing, and I come back to that occasionally.
Hoddeson:Had you taken some quantum mechanics before?
Shockley:No, that was my first encounter with quantum mechanics, except for a little talk about Bohr orbits, that sort of thing — I had taken, in the summer session between my freshman and sophomore years at Caltech, a summer course at Stanford University by Karl K. Darrow.
Shockley:That was around 1930, that's right. And I was struck then, as I have always been every time I've had any contact with Karl Darrow, struck with the amazing precision of his language, and the way in which he expressed things. He certainly gave a colorful picture of the field of physics, I think maybe as much as anybody that I've ever listened to. I later got to know him better at Bell Telephone Laboratories, because he had a desk in the same two man office at 463 West St. with C. J. Davisson, and I reported to C. J. Davisson. Karl Darrow had on his desk a small toy railway signal, which I asked about, and the purpose of that signal was that if he had a question on some topic he wanted to take up with Davisson, and Davisson was working, he did not wish to interrupt him, so he would set the signal appropriately, and when it caught Davisson's eye and Davisson was in the mood to stop doing what he was doing, he would then communicate. I gave Darrow as a Christmas present one year the best model of the Lionel toy train electrified signal, with switch and batteries, so that the lights would light and the arm could raise by throwing the switch. I think it was probably no advantage to Karl Darrow because the batteries probably ran down, and so it became inoperative... free time and so on, and this was the same sort of mathematics, so that happened to come back in later on... But Slater suggested doing a thesis on wave functions in sodium chloride, and the main essence of that thesis, as I worked on it at the time, was really the discipline of sitting, I down and running calculating machines for a long period of time. When I got through with this, however, I produced, I think, all together at least three or four papers out of that thesis, which is unusual. In fact, one of my best students has produced no paper on a very unusual thesis. One of these — first of all, there was some paper about the sodium chloride itself, giving the band structure. I think I drew the first realistic pictures of energy bands in, actually calculated complex energy bands, for a real crystal.
Shockley:Well, this was a method of approximations, of course, of calculating the energies along certain lines of K space, and then enough lines so you could begin to fit this thing together. And actually have done this, I had done it on a small minimum segment of the as called for in cubic case, which is I think 1/48th of the total solid angle, because it's the elementary non separate part of the face of a cube, and you can divide the face of a cube up into eight parts, all of which are alike, so it's 1/64th, but Phil Morse thought that didn't give an adequate picture, and he had developed some techniques for drawing these things in three dimension. So he drew this, these things for me, and I published those pictures, but since he'd done so much on that and it was such a central part of the thesis, I think he didn't draw those things, it was an important part he didn't want to acknowledge, he might have helped me too much so I think I put in some veiled acknowledgment to him in that. I later put in another veiled acknowledgment to Fermi, in another connection when I started using things called quasi Fermi levels in semi-conductors. Then I had talked to Fermi about this in Chicago at one time and said I didn't know a good name for them. Quasi-Fermi levels were too complicated, and Fermi suggested, "Well you might call them 'imrefs'". Have you ever heard them?
Shockley:Well they were called "imref" for a while by some people. Do you know why they're called "imrefs"?
Shockley:Well, if you were to spell "imref" backward, you'd guess. You wouldn't have to guess.
Hoddeson:Oh, I see!
Shockley:I made the acknowledgment to that in an article I published with these, I think, on the first paper published in the Physical Review on the characteristics of junction transistors, in which I said that the word imref had been suggested by the most appropriate advisor.
Hoddeson:You mentioned that you knew Seitz? Where did you?
Shockley:Well, I think I may have met him in connection with Professor Ross at Stanford, because he did undergraduate work at Stanford. Then he went back and did graduate work at Stanford. He didn't like the degree of discipline at CalTech, discipline in courses and so on.
Hoddeson:You must have met him then when you were just a freshman.
Shockley:Well, something like that, yes. Seitz and I drove East in my 1929 Desoto roadster, in the summer of 1932, and I recall arriving at Princeton one evening, the moon shining on the buildings and so on, and, the next day I was driving into the parking lot at MIT, 11715 with the wind blowing from the soap or the candy factory, I've forgotten which one, and the Eastman Building there looking like factory building I wasn't sure I'd made the right choice. But they'd come through with the offer first, urging acceptance. I later talked to some of the people at Princeton who were wondering about this, and why I'd made the choice I had. It was sort of a business choice.
Hoddeson:Did you end up being pleased with your choice?
Shockley:Oh, I don't know, it's hard to tell. Hard to tell. I'm not sure, how one would have ended up differently, one place rather than another.
Hoddeson:How closely did you work with Slater at MIT?
Shockley:Oh, not very closely. Slater was a very distant thesis professor. Slater's a good friend of mine now, but at that time I had very little use for him as a thesis professor and thought he had not been particularly helpful. Now, this may be good training. When I deal with my own students, I think of this, and I will go to some trouble with them, but I feel if one goes to too much trouble, it may not be good training, and maybe that's something Slater was doing then. I would be rather doubtful if there is any golden rule for the optimum method of dealing in educating a student. I'm pretty well convinced that the perfect lecture is not necessarily the best method of teaching. I didn't say something I want to about some of the other outstanding lecturers at Caltech. The outstanding lecturer of almost all time, in my experience, was William Vermillion Houston, who was teaching theoretical physics. I took one quarter of that and then went off with this experiment of Pauling's. But Houston, I recognized at that time, had an unusual capacity to see what was in the student's mind. And the way I put it, I think I formulated it even then, that some student would ask some question which was quite confused, and Houston would listen to it, and then he would formulate the question so it was clear how the student should have done it, or what was mixing him up, and then he would answer it. So he had a remarkable capacity to grasp the confusion in the student's mind and see just what was needed to straighten it out. I listened to lectures given by Terman. And Terman was a very beautiful lecturer. One of the things that has stood me in good stead was Terman pointing out how to differentiate the factorial, the logarithm, of the factorial which comes into statistical mechanics. Some people get into a ridiculous business of talking about Stirling's approximation. All you have to do is to increase the course if you're dealing statistical mechanics, there's no point in being fine-grained, you're always dealing with integer numbers N, so if you're going to differentiate a factorial, all you have to do is to the smallest delta N you can have is 1, and then if you take the change in the log of the factorial, it's simply going to be N or N plus 1, depending on which way you change it, and you divide that by 1, and that's the derivative. So you don't have to fiddle-fuddle around with Stirling's approximation and things you don't know anything about. I took statistical mechanics actually from three people once in my undergraduate school, and I took it also from Erik Rudberg who's now I think chairman of the Nobel Foundation (and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if my contacts there had something to do with the date-of awarding of the Nobel Prize) and also from John Slater, who was teaching statistical mechanics as a instructor at Harvard and at the same time he was head of the department at MIT. Slater is certainly one of the top rank lecturers, in capacity to explain things simply and straightforwardly.
Hoddeson:He appears to have been kind of a father figure in the new solid state physics in this country.
Shockley:Well, and persistently, because he has continued with it, I guess is still running a group on it, is he not? It was a few years ago. I haven't seen him for several years.
Hoddeson:Who were some of the other graduate students who worked with you at MIT?
Shockley:Oh, there were quite a group of them that I can recall and go back to. We worked together. The first paper I published there was with a man called Ralph Poole Johnson, who later became one of the key people in Ramo-Wooldridge. I guess Johnson was a general lecturer for quite a while. He and Seitz were both there, and I think they wrote a series of papers together, maybe in the Journal of Applied Physics and we did the first experiments which showed the difference in work function on different crystal faces of tungsten, as I recall, dealing with the long tungsten filament which had been raised to such temperature that it recrystallized so there were long crystal grains and then we got patterns in the it was surrounded by a cylindrical tube, with fluorescent screen, and then one could see patterns having the appropriate symmetry for the crystal axis along the filament. Johnson was a student, of Wayne Nottingham's. Wayne Nottingham had an electronics laboratory. That was the first place I ever heard the word "electronics." I'm not sure whether electronics is older than Nottingham's laboratory or not, as a word. It was all full of vacuum electronics, and I remember going with Johnson up to Lake George, to show these results we'd obtained to Nottingham, who was not much impressed with them somehow. Lake George, it was the first time I'd ever seen the place, first time I ever tried to water ski or something of that sort, get up on a board. Then we went in Nottingham's motorboat down to another island, where Irving Langmuir was, and showed these results to him. As I recall, Irving was more encouraging about it than Nottingham was, and Nottingham I think was saying things like, "Well, you really ought to get this further along and do it better before you send off a letter to the Physical Review." We thought it over, and we didn't like Nottingham's wet blanket, and we sent it off.
Hoddeson:You were still at MIT, and I was asking you about some of the other students you worked with I have listed here Millman and Jim Fisk.
Shockley:Jake Millman — he's in Electrical Engineering, isn't he, one of the schools in New York? I think that's where he is. I think he's at NYU or someplace like that. I went there and gave a talk a few years ago.
Hoddeson:What about Jim Fisk? I heard second-hand that you and Jim Fisk had been studying together at MIT, is that correct?
Shockley:Well, yes, we got to know each other rather well there, and we did publish one paper together, and the third author was Leonard Schiff of Stanford, as I recall. This was a paper in the nuclear field. I've forgotten just what it was. Making some estimates of energies of some nuclei as I recall, using, oh, variational methods with Gaussian wave functions or something like that, and it got into some kind of a business where it was turned down by referees, and then somebody else published essentially the same thing later on, and there was some kind of a fuss, and then ours came in, so we'd never gotten into what might have been regarded as the nuclear club or something.
Hoddeson:My impression is that all in all, at MIT you got a pretty solid foundation of what was known at that time.
Shockley:You mean "one did?"
Hoddeson:One did and you in particular, of the solid state theory at that time, that MIT was probably one of the best places to be?
Shockley:There were a group of students. This was in terms of using the Wigner-Seitz method and Slater's own method, which was a somewhat more elaborate thing of fitting than was the Wigner-Seitz method; fitting with more points on the surface of a cell. But this was probably the biggest group doing that kind of thing. We had a number of students doing that. Marvin Chodorov was another one. He's out at Stanford now, in the department of applied physics, and there was a Millard Fuller Manning, who went out to the University of Pittsburgh, but then died a few years later of a heart attack, I think. And let's see, there was Krutter I believe, who did some work on also did a thesis in this area, and who else? Fisk I believe did his thesis under Phil Morse, and it was a combination of a theoretical and experimental thesis, in which he I think studied the scattering of electrons by chlorine molecules. Who else? David Langmuir was there, and Robert Richtmeyer, so of Richtmeyer at Cornell, I think it was, who was a very prominent physicist at the time. Richtmeyer I believe went out to Los Alamos. I knew Richtmeyer rather well. We were office mates. I've forgotten who else were office mates. There was another chap who was a very bright Irishman, H. T. Smythe, I think was his name. I've lost track of him. He got into the optical field. I'm sure there are other names that would come back to me if I thought of it. Bill Hansen was there for a while, from Stanford. I knew him slightly out there. He married one of the younger daughters of the Ross family. Bill Hansen was a man of enormous ability and a profound lack of common sense in a number of ways. He did not adapt his wearing apparel to the Eastern climate, and fetched up with pneumonia, I believe, once or twice. It was this problem that finally killed him. He had maybe viral pneumonia a number of times. His lungs went bad and he ended up on oxygen, and died away over a period of a year or so at Stanford. It was very hard on Betsy Ross Hansen, who later suicided. Betsy, I think Betsy and her sister Ruth were both in the Terman gifted children group. Terman missed two Nobel laureates. He tested one of them personally, and I don't know whether he did the other one or not. He tested me, and I didn't make it, and Louis Alvarez was another. The Terman gifted group have, however, out-performed the population as a whole by a very wide margin, on almost all measures of general quality. They had less divorces than the average, than typical college people. Their suicide rate was not as far as I know any higher. They won Pulitzer Prizes. And they are shifted upward in family income by about 1.45 standard deviations, with the same kind of income distribution as the population, as a whole. I happen to have done some studying of the Terman's five volume set called Genetic Studies of Genius.
Hoddeson:I've heard second hand that Slater's remark when you left MATT was "he'd lost his best teacher." Does that mean anything, to you?
Shockley:You mean, who taught him best?
Hoddeson:Yes, he referred to you as his best teacher.
Shockley:I don't recall that remark. It is in some ways not inappropriate, though. It's not inappropriate.
Hoddeson:What could he have been referring to, assuming the remark is correct?
Shockley:Well, it could be several things. No, it's quite interesting, as a matter of fact, I'll call and ask him. He's in Florida. Well, it could have been that I was teaching him something about how to deal with his graduate students in terms of personal relations because although I'm not sure he's aware of it of why I snubbed him rather thoroughly at the end. When, I think it was probably Ralph Johnson and Jim Fisk and I got our degrees, we invited a number of professors to Lochober's restaurant in Boston, which you may know, upstairs, a pushy sort of a dinner. We didn't invite John Slater. So, as I say, I had this rather distant attitude. Since then I've gotten to know him better and found him a very agreeable guy to get on with. But one of the things that I became involved with in the thesis was something very close to the exciton and actually we published a paper which had this in it, and I remember talking to Slater about this, saying that the excited state in which the electron was on the adjacent atom, when you made up wave functions like this, all the optical strength would go to these if the bands became very narrow. This was essentially the exciton concept, and I had done a one dimensional treatment of that, which showed that this was the correct way to look at it. So in this paper which we wrote, one of the papers that came out as a sort of a spin-off of my thesis, I would say definitely, on that point I had taught him something. I'd discovered something and then he'd incorporated it, we'd done it together. And the other thing that might have struck him was, I did something which other people have used, in various other ways since I tested the validity of Slater's method, in the one case in which we knew what the exact answers would be for the particular lattice we were studying. You see, this was an approximate method, and how could you know how accurate it was? So I said, "There's one case to which you can apply it, to which you know exactly what the exact answer is, in this three dimensional case. What lattice, you see, is the lattice for which you know exactly what the wave functions are and so on? You can draw the band structure in complete detail with absolute accuracy. This was the lattice in which the potential is constant everywhere. All you have is a geometrical lattice drawn there, so all the wave functions are the wave functions for electrons in empty space. Then you apply Slater's approximate method to those you know it won't work perfectly because it's only an approximate method and see how well it duplicates what you would have for free plane wave electrons. This was called the empty lattice test of the cellular method in solids. It's testing the theory on sort of a null case, you see. So if you're going to say where have I taught him something? Those two things I think of, I might have taught him something on. But I don't remember this quote. It's interesting.
Hoddeson:Did you do any teaching at MIT as an undergraduate?
Shockley:Yes, I did some class teaching, but the main accomplishment I had in this was to reorganize the freshman physics laboratory. For about a decade, a substantial number of the experiments in the MIT freshman physics laboratory were ones that I'd designed, and the key element of these things was a timing device, which would fire off a Ford spark coil 60 times a second or something of this sort, which was done by having a synchronous motor drive a cam shaft with automobile distributor points on it, which would then activate the spark coil so a spark would jump, and the spark would jump from some moving object onto a piece of pinkish paper coated with Paraffin and make a little melted spot there, and so these involved falling body experiments, and simple harmonic motion, and a Newton's Second Law experiment, in which you pull a string out and measure the force on the string, and then have some pendulum weight hanging down and get it in motion. So I remembered going those things. One of these memorable experiences in the freshman physics laboratory was when an exceptionally bright student, whom I could clearly recognize as being a bright student, came in and, I was talking, about errors, and that the error in the square of a number would be twice the error of one power, and a cube three times, and the student said, "That means if you had an nth power thing, the error would be N times as big," which is a good jump. He had that much grasp on the mathematical relevance. His name was Richard Feynman.
Hoddeson:Ah, I didn't realize.
Shockley:And one of the more memorable tape recordings which can be used for educational purposes took place four or five years ago, when I talked to Feynman about the hidden momentum problem, about which I'd sent him some material, and we got into a debate as to whether you can teach students to learn how to do research. We had a certain number of views in common.
Hoddeson:I see. Where is that tape?
Shockley:That tape is in the bottom right hand drawer of my desk at Stanford.
Hoddeson:Would you be willing to send a copy of that tape to the Center for History of Physics?
Shockley:I think I might, yes. I play it for my classes every now and then. It has an impact. It's an unusually good tape. I've forgotten whether it has any profanity in it. It might have some. Might have to do a little editing. Make a note to ask me about it.
Hoddeson:I'll ask you in the margin of the transcript.
Shockley:I see, you've got your memory device working.
Hoddeson:Right. Do you recall any especially inspiring visitors to MIT while you were there, people who impressed you and might have influenced your career plans in some special way?
Shockley:Oh, I don't know. I can't say. I'm just groping to see if that...
Hoddeson:If it doesn't ring a bell, I have many questions; I can go on to others. One of the exciting things that was going on at the time that you were at, MIT was the Michigan Summer School. Were you aware of those summer sessions?
Shockley:This doesn't, ring a bell with me. Was this in physics?
Hoddeson:In physics, the Michigan Summer Symposium was a meeting place distinguished theoretical physicists from all over the world. In the summer of '33 Van Vleck spoke there on magnetism, and Debye spoke on paramagnetism and diamagnetism, and Heisenberg spoke on paramagnetism. In 1935, Bloch spoke on quantum theory. In 1938, Seitz and Ewald lectured, and so on.
Shockley:I wasn't particularly aware of these things, at the time. I remember visiting with Ewald at MIT.
Hoddeson:I was just curious about how well publicized those meetings were among students. What brought you to Bell Labs originally?
Shockley:Well, this was in 1936. The offers were not just hanging around on trees all over the place. I had well, one offer, I went around and was interviewed at General Electric, and at Bell Laboratories, and I've forgotten whether I went to RCA or not. I don't recall that one. Somebody from Westinghouse had come around and interviewed me, I remember that, and then Jim Fisk had applied for a position at Yale, and had turned it down because a better position came up I think at University of North Carolina, and so Slater recommended, someone recommended me for that one, and that offer came in. And about the same day, Mervin Kelly who was then I think heading, the vacuum tube department at Bell Telephone Laboratories came up to do interviewing. I can recall talking to Kelly and being impressed that he called up, used the telephone to call all the way down to New York City, to find out if he'd be authorized to make me an offer, because I had to decide right then and there, because the Yale offer had to be closed up, and I recall going over to be checked up by the medical department at New England Bell the next day. And sending my application down to Bell Labs or something of this sort, and forgetting to sign it. I don't know why I remember that, but when I came down there, I remember getting it out and signing it, because it should have been signed. So that settled that. The deal was that I would be reporting C. J. Davisson.
Hoddeson:How did it feel at Bell Labs? Did you feel that they were somewhat behind the times, in the amount of modern physics that they knew generally?
Shockley:Oh, I wouldn't have had a reaction of feeling behind the times on this. I certainly didn't get that, I don't think. Because well, I don't think that we had the idea then that some of the sorts of things that later have become so central in the technology, that they were around the corner. There's no telling how far off they were. So the applicability of the sorts of things we'd been learning about then wasn't obvious to me than, any more than to anyone else, I don't think. So I don't think I would have had that feeling, that they were so much behind the times. The thing that happened when I came there was that I was put into a pretty rigorous sort of indoctrination period by being sent around to several different places in the laboratory, all having to do with electronics. First Fred Llewellyn.
Hoddeson:I brought you an organization chart, and you can find your own name underlined. It might help you recall.
Shockley:Oh yes. This doesn't show this is the physical research department, but I didn't, although that's where I fitted on the organization chart, this is not where I reported for the first year.
Hoddeson:It isn't Davisson? Where were you?
Shockley:No. Well, this is where I was on the chart, but I was physically with a man called F. B. Llewellyn, to begin with, who was in the Graybar Varick Building, and he was working on high frequency vacuum tubes, and wave guide.
Hoddeson:We're looking at the organization chart 12/31/36. And on that chart you're listed under Davisson, but you say you never actually worked there.
Shockley:Not for a year or so.
Hoddeson:I see. For a year you were sent to Llewellyn.
Shockley:Well, I don't remember the exact length of time. It was not as long as a year with Llewellyn. And then over to the other department, which was under Wilson, Ray Wilson, I think it was, he's not there. Wilson Walnut Creek, James R. Wilson, J.R. Wilson, that's right, J. R. Wilson, because he was in he headed that department, and I think I reported to a man ca1led Mendenhall , along with John Pierce, at that time, and we worked on electron multiplier tubes. I took something at Caltech and put it into action there, which was a large stretched sheet of rubber, in which you would roll balls, because the path of a ball bearing rolling on a sheet of rubber is the same as the path an electron would have in the same potential field. And so we made shapes of electrodes so that the secondary electrons generated from one electrode would move over and appropriately hit a second electrode, and so that may have been one of the first electrode, and so that may have been the first patents I had at Bell Labs on electron multipliers, maybe some point ones with John Pierce, on this. But then, at the same time I'd become involved with Foster Nix, who was interested in order and disorder. So I started doing some mathematics on order and disorder in the copper-gold system, and decided I preferred to do more theoretical physics on this and then shifted back into the other building, where Davisson's group was, and I think I shared an office with Lester Germer.
Hoddeson:I think I found Mendenhall on the chart.
Shockley:That looks right. Oh, this is order. This is before Kelly, you see. This is before Kelly.
Hoddeson:Is that too early?
Shockley:This is October 1st, 1936, and this must have been just about the time that Kelly left to become the director of research. I don't know when he did this, when he made this shift, but this is the department.
Hoddeson:This is the organization chart called "Vacuum Tubes and Transmission Instruments" January, 1936.
Shockley:Here's F. R. Lack, and I suspect that what happened there was here's J. R. Wilson. So what happened after that was that J. R. Wilson moved in, and replaced Lack. Lack probably replaced Kelly when Kelly became research director, you see. So this is the organization. And we reported to Mendenhall, along with Fay and Samuel. Oh yes, I forgot, I did do one job in there. I did two jobs in there. Three, maybe three things that resulted in papers. One of the first papers published at Bell Labs was with Fay, Samuel and Shockley, it was in alphabetical order. This was an old problem in electronic emission in which if you have two parallel plates, and you have electrons emitted at some energy, two parallel plates, emitted with some energy, in one plane, if you don't have enough voltage to attract them, on the other one, they'll build up a space charge maximum. And so we did this thing completely as a one dimension model. Then there was another thing of when does the current flow? So there were two people who did this ridiculous old problem independently. One of them was Ramo at Ramo-Wooldridge and Co. and I did it. Which is, charges induced to electrodes by currents induced to electrodes by a moving carrier. If you have a bunch of electrodes around, and you have an electron moving through this space, how do the currents flow? The current does not flow in the plate wire of the vacuum tube when the electron hits the plate. It starts to flow as soon as the electron hits the plate. It starts to flow as soon as the electron gets past the grid. It's all related to image charges and things like this, and there's a nice mathematical method for doing it. But we missed out on traveling wave tubes and things like this, and klystrons, because it took them too long to make samples, and by the time they made some samples, I'd lost interest and gone back to physics, so, as remember, people later were annoyed about this because these tubes had come around and been delivered, and by that time I wasn't having anything to do with them.
Hoddeson:I've heard that before.
Shockley:You mean, about this kind of thing?
Hoddeson:By the time the equipment arrives, people have…
Hoddeson:Sure. I see you here on the 12/31/38 chart written over, January 3rd, '38 your name, Shockley, is under you're reporting to Germer under Davisson but it's crossed out, and you've apparently been moved to your own separate box under Harvey Fletcher.
Shockley:Oh, I was not reporting to Germer. No, the fact that my name is under Germer, it's not indented, you see. The names are in alphabetical order. The indentations tell you. I was reporting to Davisson. What was the date of this thing?
Hoddeson:This is '38. Does this represent you tell me that you went back into physics
Shockley:Well, yes. I don't know what happened here. This replaces the issue of January, '38. And this one is dated December 31st, 1938. OK. Well, I guess what happened there, was that, these people Nix, Wooldridge and myself Wooldridge was working for Lovell at this time, and where was Nix reporting? Nix was probably reporting to Bozorth. Yea, Nix was reporting to Bozorth, you see. Fletcher had us reporting to him, you see, but not as director of physical research, but in a lower capacity. That is, we were being, in a sense, the three of us, Nix, Wooldridge and Shockley, were being moved up half a notch on the chart, is what it amounts to, because we were not now reporting to people who reported to Fletcher, we were reporting to Fletcher. But we were reporting to Fletcher at a lower level, you see. So this sort of represents a kind of thinking. I believe that these people are probably going to be individuals who will be supervisors, like this group. This is sort of a first step toward that. This would be my guess as to what this meant. But, Davisson shouldn't have been burdened by being responsible for whether I was doing the right things or not you see.
Hoddeson:Who was responsible?
Shockley:Well, Fletcher would then bear the responsibility, you see, and so I'd be reporting to Fletcher, because Davisson might not want to be burdened by what Shockley's doing with order and disorder in the copper-gold making any sense or not. (BREAK) When did I go to Whippany?
Hoddeson:Were you at Whippany? I didn't realize that.
Shockley:Yes, I got a couple of patents on radar things, having to do with radar equipment. I worked on the first piece of radar equipment that was installed on a US vehicle, I think, which was a S J radar that went onto submarines. And there were t7vro units particularly of mine. One was the thing that pulsed the magneton, and the other one was a ranging unit. And this has turned me against dealing with any apparatus which has liquids in it.
Hoddeson:Was that later on… closer to World War II?
Shockley:That was in '42 was when I went to the Columbia research stuff, which was shortly after we'd gotten into the war, because December 7, ‘41, which was Pearl Harbor. Well, I'd been at Whippany for a year or so then. I daresay I went to Whippany in 1940.
Hoddeson:So you were working in the group that is now at Murray Hill.
Hoddeson:Between '46 and '40.
Shockley:Yes. I was always attached during that time to the physical research department, till I went up to Whippany, although…
Hoddeson:I'd like to know I'm particularly interested in the study group that I've learned about just a little bit from a transcript of an interview that was made with Brattain by Alan Holden 1964. He mentioned that around 1935, a group got together to learn the new physics, essentially, and he said you were one of the organizers of that group.
Shockley:It wouldn't have been '35, though. It would have been '36. I came in about September of '36.
Hoddeson:Maybe it started a little later, then. And he mentioned Fisk and Wooldridge and Alan Holden and Foster Nix.
Shockley:Fisk, Wooldridge, Alan Holden, Foster Nix, this sounds right.
Hoddeson:Howell Williams, Walter Brattain, and Gordon Teal, although…
Shockley:That sounds right, yes.
Hoddeson:When I spoke with Alan Holden, he wasn't sure about Gordon Teal, but I can check that out in other ways. It's like to know as much as possible about that study group, as much as you remember and care to tell me.
Shockley:Well, I remember this thing going on, and I remember our meeting, and people taking turns, as I recall, to prepare material, and you mentioned some of the books. I think there was Mott and Jones, certainly, and I've forgotten whether we dealt much with A.H. Wilson's book on theory of metals. I never got much out of that book myself.
Hoddeson:The list that I have, but maybe this isn't a complete list, is Mott and Jones, and then Tolman's Statistical Mechanics.
Shockley:That sounds right.
Hoddeson:And then Mott and Gurney.
Shockley:Chemical Bond, yes.
Hoddeson:That's all I have on my list.
Shockley:Well, that all sounds right. Now, I don't remember I remember being involved with all of these books, but I don't remember much about the details of how this operation went on. And where we met, for example. It doesn't come back at all clearly. It seems to me it was somewhere in the top of that West Street building. Why I should remember that, I don't know.
Hoddeson:Do you remember what time you met?
Shockley:I have a notion it was sort of an after hour thing, and that it was not entirely on company time, or maybe it was half on company time or something of that sort. We'd start in before the normal working day was over and then continue.
Hoddeson:Do you remember whether the same group continued?
Shockley:For more than a year?
Hoddeson:Well, apparently it ran for at least four years and then continued for a while after the war as well.
Shockley:Well, it could scarcely have continued it could not have continued during the war.
Hoddeson:No, I think it stopped and then picked up again for a little while after the war, but perhaps in a different way.
Shockley:I remember almost nothing about this kind of activity after the war. Now, what that means, I don't know. It may be that the group was meeting and I just wasn't involved in it and didn't have an interest in it or something of this sort, or else that it plain didn't meet, or that I was not — wasn't a part of it somehow. So I just don't click on that.
Hoddeson:Let's go back to the group before the war, and the meetings what you said about meeting once a week agrees precisely with what Alan Holden recalls. He recalls it met once, perhaps twice a week, at about 4:30 and went on for a while. Do you recall what the attitude of the rest of the Bell Labs physical research group was to your meeting? Did they encourage it? Or was it done independently of the Bell Labs organization?
Shockley:Well, I think there wasn't anything very significant about this reaction, except the lack of any vigorous attitude, you see, and I think that's typical of the sort of situation which could exist here: if people had an idea like this, this, this is something that would be useful and enable them to do their work better and maybe even enjoy it more. It wasn't a matter having beer feasts on company time in the building, you see, or anything like this, anything that could be regarded as really being adverse to the general interests of the company. If it were a serious technical interest, I think almost everybody would have said, "Well, let us know if we can loan you our chairs," or "If you want to use our multilith machine to get out notices, go ahead." I think it would be a reaction like that, you see. There's one thing that we might have worried about a little bit. I'm not making this up, just giving a tone to the thing, I'm not recalling incidents that happened then it was saying to some guy who's just not well enough to qualified to be there and is going to be a dead weight on this activity, how are we diplomatically going to make sure that he's not encouraged to come? See. Something like that might come in. But I think in terms of finding some sort of a managerial spirit which would have come in and said "Well, you ought to do this" if you weren't doing it, or on the other hand would have said, "Look, have you really thought very carefully if you aren't wasting the company's time on researches by doing this?", I don't think an attitude, either a positive one like that or a negative one like that, a controlling one, would have existed. I'm in part reacting a little bit to something which you haven't said, but the way you're putting the questions I felt might be there, that you might somehow have got onto the very significant thing, in respect to the operation you've been interested in pursuing this, you've said a number of times. And I'm not finding that in my background it's triggering me off, quite that way. I think it was useful in getting some people together, you see. Maybe in talking to…
Hoddeson:I'd like to know just why people bothered to do this. I'm sure it took a considerable amount of time and effort.
Shockley:Well, that's almost like asking, why did they bother to get a Ph.D.? You see, the same people would get a PhD who'd be inclined to do something like this, maybe on their own.
Hoddeson:Why these books? Why these subjects?
Shockley:Oh, well, now if you take the names of the people and organization in here, these were people who were concerned there was probably an underlying concern of the motion of electrons through crystals. Now, H. J. Williams. I don't remember so much; H. J. Williams had certainly a general interest, here.
Hoddeson:Here's a list of the people, the study group, from the interview. If you want to look at them.
Shockley:From the Brattain interview. Well, these people who were involved had a certain number of exchanges, one way and another. Teal was concerned with photoelectric things, things going in the direction of TV pickup tubes. I'm not sure he was so close. For Holden it was generally a matter of intellectual interest. Foster Nix is a metallurgist and so we did a couple of things together. We wrote a long article on order and disorder. He'd been invited to do this, and then I came in and I wrote the theoretical part. And also, Nix and Brattain and I got together on doing… no that was later. Nix and I did one of the first metallurgical self-diffusion experiments using radioactive copper, in collaboration with a guy at Columbia called Steigman. A chemist there. So, I think, Nix had an interest — in metallurgy generally but was not cut out to be a theoretical person. So I think he rather gravitated to me, you see, and got me interested in his field of interest. Well, the sorts of metallurgical things that we got into here were relevant. I think I didn't know I had not some of the sorts of things, involving Debye temperatures, and the Wiedemann-Franz law and some other things of that sort, general basic solid state physics that were in Mott and Jones, I had not really run into much at MIT. So there were areas there that bear on your question of, was the foundation really broad and general? And I would say, in some ways, it was not at MIT. When I stop and think about it, there were a number of things I hadn't had much to do with, in my training at MIT, on some of the sorts of things that particularly you find in Mott and Jones, and Hume & Rothery, I recall was another interesting book to get into, a little book by Hume- Rothery. Well, I don't know whether this is doing much good or not.
Hoddeson:I'm trying to get a picture of what people knew generally and what their interests were.
Shockley:Well, I didn't know things about Debye lengths at all, I remember. That came out that probably came out of Mott and Guerney. That's where I first ran into concepts of Debye lengths.
Hoddeson:Do you remember who organized the group? Was it you, or was it Foster Nix?
Shockley:I think it may have been in on it. But I think that was kind of a loose sort of an operation, in which I'm a little bit doubtful if I don't remember whether there was somebody who was ticked off to let everyone know, you see, we're you we're going to meet, or something like that. I think maybe we'd meet and we'd say, "Well, let's meet such and such a time" or something of that sort. That would be about the formality of it. I think, I don't recall that somebody else if I had been taking a position of some leadership in it, and had been, I might not now remember it. If someone else had been clearly running it and setting the schedule, I would probably remember that. So I suspect I may have had more to do with running it than I now remember. I think this would be right. If someone else had been running the thing, I think I would be likely to remember that, more clearly than if I'd been taking somewhat of a lead in calling it. I mean, I would then have done what I needed to do and have forgotten about it. I'm not positive this is right.
Hoddeson:Do you think there's any way I could lay my hands on some documents that would help you with this? Do you think any of these people might have taken some notes?
Shockley:Well, I don't know. I don't happen to have any laboratory notebooks in that drawer, for the time. They're all postwar. Whether I would have written that thing down in a laboratory notebook, I don't know anything like that. I usually didn't put that kind of thing down. I've not been too much of a diary keeper.
Hoddeson:Was anybody in the group a good note taker? Some people take notes and some don't.
Shockley:Williams is dead. Foster Nix might be worth trying to phone up. He might very well have remembered these things. Wooldridge might. Wooldridge was even then far more a business type, I'd say, than most of us you know him of course?
Hoddeson:I know the name, of course.
Shockley:Does TRIW mean anything to you? There's an organization called Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge. And Wooldridge was with Hughes Aircraft for a while. He was at one time chairman of the board of Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge. This is not like Lytton Industries, but it's comparable so he has been a major business figure. Then I mention Ramo, I thought you might have heard of him too. There's Ramo-Bunker Co. that makes computers and so on. You've heard of… and Packard?
Shockley:Well, these fellows are a notch down, in terms of this from Hewlett and Packard but in the same ball park. Wooldridge got his PhD. at Caltech, under Smythe, I believe. So, but it's quite conceivable that Wooldridge would have been a meticulous keeper of records. I think he lives in Santa Barbara now. Let's see, who else? I don't think Fisk I wouldn't think it's quite so likely Fisk. Then again, he might. Fisk and Wooldridge both are, of that group, the ones who would be most business types or managerial types.
Hoddeson:Tell me, the article that you wrote in 1939, that was published in the Bell Systems Technical Journal, I think I have a copy of it here.
Shockley:That'll be useful. You were asking me who had to do with getting me involved in that, and I think I probably put an acknowledgment to King.
Hoddeson:Yes, let's look at the last page.
Shockley:No. I didn't. But the guy who did the stimulus on this, his name isn't in there. I remember B. A. Clark, who was the drafting department.
Hoddeson:I was wondering if you could recall what motivated you if to write that article. I think it's a beautiful article.
Shockley:It has been well liked. That's what's not coming, back to me, because I do know the man who exerted the principal stimulus on this. He was I think the editor of the Bell Systems Technical Journal at the time. So, and his name was King. And he might still be these are the retired members. He was a little bit older than some of these others, so he might not be there, but I might be able to locate him, as I did the right Wilson, J. R. Wilson. King, Douglas, Gerald, John Ralph, Robert W. it might have been Robert W. King. But if you would go back and get Bell System Technical Journal of that time, and look up who the editor was, or maybe three years before to three years afterwards, I think you'll find his name was King. And I think he came around and said, "Why don't you write an article like this?" you see. So, whereas I was saying in respect to some of these activities, the Laboratories might not have taken a plus position managerially or something, this was essentially that kind of thing. And he was not in the physical research department, see, but you know Mort.
Hoddeson:I've met him, yes.
Shockley:Well, you see, something a little like that, maybe.
Hoddeson:I gather it was fairly widely read.
Shockley:It's hard for me to tell about that.
Hoddeson:In the Laboratories here.
Shockley:Well, I just don't know.
Hoddeson:Didn't get much feedback?
Shockley:Didn't get much feedback on it, no.
Hoddeson:Whatever happened to Parts 2 and 3? Are they in your files some place?
Shockley:Didn't I tell you about that?
Shockley:Now, observe the date on this thing. The thing was this, that I said, "In the second paper will be discussed..." and they never got written. “The third paper will contain..." The paper I'm dealing with today said, "Dr. Shockley plans to..." No, they never as late as 1948 or '49, some date like this, people would come to me saying, "What happened to Parts 2and 3?" Or later than that.
Hoddeson:It must have taken you quite a long time to put that thing together.
Shockley:I don't remember now how long it was, now.
Hoddeson:It's very detailed and very very beautifully written.
Shockley:Well, thank you. Several people have said good things about it. I know the guy who did these pictures now. We drink together. Harvey White. He's a charming bird. Where is it, it's a little earlier He made these things by rotating this stuff, rotating these things around. Here's, Addison White.
Hoddeson:Addison White is, do you know where he is?
Shockley:He's in Paris. But he has some consulting, retaining relationship with the Laboratories. And if you called personnel, you'd probably be able to find out what his address. I don't think I have it. If not, if you would call John Hornbeck's secretary.
Shockley:If you call his secretary, she could probably give you Whites address. Then, if you'd write to White and say, "What is going on here?" because he would have been someone, he's again the sort of man, of a more managerial type, would have been quite aware of the relationships, I don't know if political is the right word or not, but more organizationally conscious perhaps than I'm likely to be a good deal of the time. And so, I think he might be a good bet.
Hoddeson:I asked you off the tape before about your participation in the activities at Columbia at that time.
Shockley:Yes. Well, during this time, there was at least, you see, one research operation which we carried out, which involved radioactive copper. I had some relationship with John Dunning, and Rabi also, people I knew there, and we made use of the availability of radioactive copper, and did a joint experiment, which involved Nix and Steigman and myself, and we got some counting equipment built up that we could use — for making measurements here...
Hoddeson:Do you recall when that was?
Shockley:Well, we could look this up from the publication, the diffusion of radioactive copper and soft diffusion of copper, and so that will give you just about the time. It must have been around '38.
Hoddeson:Did you attend the colloquia at Columbia?
Shockley:I did. Yes, I did attend the colloquia every now and then at Columbia when I lived in New York City. Yes, I do remember attending — some of these. I remember hearing Schwinger talk at one time.
Shockley:No. That I remember, but I don't remember any other particular —
Hoddeson:Did you go up and have lunch there and spend the afternoon?
Shockley:Well, I guess I would do something, like that, because I do remember certain amount of familiarity with the Faculty Club at the top of some building on or near the Columbia campus. We walked somewhere to get to that.
Hoddeson:In '39, if you were in touch with Dunning, you must have been aware of his famous neutron experiments, after the discovery of fission.
Shockley:With slow neutrons and so on.
Hoddeson:Yes, looking for secondary neutrons in the fission process.
Shockley:Yes. Well, there's another thing you haven't gotten into at all. Do you know about the research work that Fisk and I were involved with in respect to fission?
Hoddeson:No. Tell me about it.
Shockley:Do you have that reprint by the way, the one I gave you today, the transistor one? Then I will put a few marks what you really want of course is to get this stuff on tape. So I'm thinking not so much of your primary purpose there as the…
Hoddeson:… this is May, '74.
Shockley:National Bureau of Standards publication. May '74, that's right, National Bureau of Standards. Where is this reference to this thing? I talk about in the "Will to Think" section. Well, let's see. You've never heard that phrase, "the will to think"? It came from Fermi. As far as I know, I'm the only person who's quoted it. But you'll find on page 62, here. Anyway, in probably 1939, the National Bureau of Standards and the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences somehow were triggered off, possibly as a result of the famous conversation that Einstein had with Roosevelt, to get a further look into whether or not there were prospects of using fission in respect to military activities. And one of the inquiries came from the National Academy of Sciences, of whom the president was at that time Frank Jewett, who had formerly been I believe head of Bell Laboratories and was then a vice president of AT&T, to look into this. And Jim Fisk and I were asked to look into it. One of the things which I remember thinking of at a particular moment was while taking a shower in Gilette of saying, "Well, if you put the uranium in chunks, separated lumps or something, then the neutrons might be able to slow down, through this peak, at U-238 or whatever it is, and not get captured, and be able to hit the U-235." This is the basic concept of the segregation in a nuclear reactor, which was invented independently by at least three or four people. So Fisk and I settled down and did calculations, on what optimum dimensions would be, for layers and cylinders and spheres, of non-enriched uranium in graphite and water, and in the course of this, we went up and talked to Fermi. I'm not sure if both of us went up or not. But at that time, Fermi was starting to slowing down experiments, I think, and the item that stuck in my mind neither of us mentioned nuclear reactor structures. I'm quite certain both of us knew about it. But I remember Fermi saying in connection with this that now funds were going to come in to support experimental work on this, and he was getting busy doing some calculations and so on and designing the experiments, and the key factor in his conversation was the fact that this work would now be supported gave him "the will to think". We'd finished up the Fermi business, I think, and I was talking now about this article. When I started to do some research on the history of the invention of the transistor, which I did in November or maybe September or August of 1972, about two years ago, I first became aware, really consciously, about of the impact of the "will to think" experiment that took place in the semi-conductor group at the precise time, you can pin it down to half a day. Or to one day, certainly, in which there's a notebook entry of Brattain's as of that day that says, "In showing these effects to Gibney, he suggested that I vary the DC. bias on a circuit while observing the light effect. It was found that with distilled water, alcohol and acetone, that a plus potential as shown increased the effect almost to zero." What this meant was, what they understood this to mean was that they had gotten an electric field through the surface, through the surface states, that was making something happen inside the germanium. And I did research on this later on, and what I did in particular was to look at the notebook entries of Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley, in one month’s intervals, number of pages used per month, for all the months up to November 17, and then I took in the next period, November 17 to December 24, which was the day of the demonstration of the transistor not, in my opinion, the day of the invention, the 16th of December.
Hoddeson:It was kept quiet for a while?
Shockley:Well, it was kept quiet until the 1st of July the following year. A very restricted group of people knew.
Shockley:Plain, sensible business practice. We'd certainly got a six months jump on RCA and lots of other places, as a result of that.
Hoddeson:But it was kept quiet within the Labs as well, wasn't it?
Shockley:There is only a certain degree to which you can let things spread without their going everywhere. And it was enough people were brought in this was, I think probably, the optimum managerial judgment enough people were brought in so most of the likely lines could be followed up. More people would have meant an unnecessary amount of duplication. So I would be very doubtful if any kind of judgment could have been much better, as to the degree to which this information was disseminated within the Laboratories. That is, it was enough but not too much. Maybe it could have been 50 percent less, or twice as much, and maybe...
Hoddeson:Was there a great deal of excitement?
Shockley:Oh yes. Yes. And the thing that I did was to look at the notebooks, and what I found is, if I look at how much people were covering in notebook entries, prior to the time at which this happened and afterwards when I give a lecture on this, I show a slide which looks much like this.
Hoddeson:We're now on page 52 of this article. Fig. 3.
Shockley:Which looks like this. And you see, then, I was going this is the long time, these dash lines are sort of previous average over a year or so, in notebooks, and that's what it looked like up to the 17th of November, at which I read you the notebook entry. And after that it looks like this. You see. So it's perfectly evident something happened, and what happened there was, this experiment that Brattain describes, following Gibney's suggestion, gave the "will to think.it It now said the thing that's been stopping us for maybe a couple of years, year and a half or more, or having any chance of having any control on what's going on inside the semiconductor, we've now had a breakthrough on that. So maybe we can make an amplifier.
Hoddeson:When were you first quite certain that one could in fact make an amplifier, using solid state methods?
Shockley:We'll, there was sort of an existence proof, you see, in principle, saying, if you made it thin enough and put on enough field and so on, you could change the number of carriers by a big fraction. It wasn't working. That's the thing which I call, what, the respect for the I have that chart in here, earlier, I guess it comes in a little, no, it's earlier than this, this is it.
Shockley:Figure 6, which said, what we've tried to do is to start out to make a transistor. It didn't work. These field effect things didn't work. We abandoned the effort to make it work. But we studied the physics of why it wasn't working, which we didn't understand, and that led to this, so we did research on the related science. It was called "respect for the scientific aspects of practical problems". And during that research, new experiments were set up and new facts were observed, of which that November 17th notebook entry was the important thing. As soon as that was seen, at once it looked as if there might be a route towards a transistor, and within one month, the point contact transistor has operated. And at the same time, it led to t1he whole field of semi-conductor research. So, I've forgotten I remember one time, doing this, being asked by Dr. Kikuchi who was in Japan on a radio-TV interview "Was it a lucky accident?" Is that in here somewhere?
Hoddeson:That may be in the other article.
Shockley:It may be in the other article. It's a good line so I should have used it in here.
Hoddeson:I'd like to ask you some more general questions about the group that was organized in 1945, which then was very successful in this development of the transistor. You and Stan Morgan were…
Hoddeson:Co-supervisors of a new group called Solid State Physics.
Shockley:That's what it was called, was it?
Shockley:I didn't remember what it had been called.
Hoddeson:Some place I have an internal memo that describes the…
Shockley:…see, that would have been something like this.
Hoddeson:I've got a chart 1945 got two of them, I've got one in January, one in March. The one in March is all marked up. And this is right after a large reorganization of the research group. You can look at those. You and Morgan directed the group and this is the first time that we have groups that have names, like Solid State Physics, Electro-dynamics and so forth, Contact Physics, in the organization.
Shockley:That's the one you have there, it doesn't say that.
Hoddeson:You have the one in January. By March, they were giving the groups names.
Shockley:This was March, '45, now in March '45, I was not here, because they dropped the bomb in Japan in August of '45, didn't they? Germany folded in May of '44.
Hoddeson:Well, you're head of the group there, on the chart.
Shockley:Well, I was on the chart. I was still on the Columbia payroll on the time. Or it may possibly be that I'd gone back on Bell Labs payroll, because they thought I could spend some time here or something like that. That I don't remember. In March of '45 where the hell is Davisson? Oh. See, Davisson and Darrow here are in a little group of their own, with George Reitter, doing some experiments that Davisson was interested in. Germer is out here running his own research group, now, what were you asking about?
Hoddeson:You at some point made a decision to focus on silicon and germanium, is that true?
Shockley:Yes well, I don't know to what degree that was mine. I remember leaning in this direction, but I can't remember for sure whether I had to persuade anyone in the group. I know other people were trying to push us into things, and you'll find something of that in this article I gave you. In the discussion at the end. I didn't bother to edit this thing, so it's as spoken. I recall some people coming around and saying, "Well, you're working on silicon and germanium, those are really pretty well under control, why don't you work on selenium and nickel, selenium or copper oxide? Those are the things we're using in the telephone (SHOCKLEY CONTINUES TO STUDY CHART) That's an accurate description of what went on there, but I guess now, here is the Solid State group, which then I guess was getting to the biggest group in the place. Here's Conyers Herr. See, here's Wooldridge playing a very important role in this thing.
Hoddeson:Under physical electronics.
Shockley:Yes. Now let's see, Burton, Addison and White, I wonder where Ad White Ad White's probably in chemistry. But I don't know - the semi-conductor group just wasn't in here at time. I was looking to see what had happened to Joe Becker. I don't think Becker had retired by then. Joe Becker headed up this rectifier group and so on, and so I'm in puzzled, and Brattain reported to him, so I'm having trouble in trying to figure out where what's happened there. Because I think I should have been able to find Becker in here somewhere.
Hoddeson:It could be he went away for a while and then came back. Did running the group mean speaking often to all of the people who were working in it and directing them so their work would all feed in together? Or was it something looser?
Shockley:Oh, I think it was looser than that. Well, I became involved in various research activities. Now Goucher, Haynes and Ryder, in due course they became part of the semi-conductor activity, but I don't think, Goucher has probably ever changed organizationally here, because this would have been, oh, somehow disrespectful of Goucher. But Haynes and I did some things together. We did some experiments on the focal effect in silver chloride, and showed that it was electrons that did it, because you could shine the light at one place and make the silver precipitate at another place. Pulling the electrons from one place to another. And we did several things of that same sort. When Brattain came in here this is July 2nd, 1945, and I guess Brattain was still away. Well, that I can find out.
Hoddeson:Wasn't this a time when the pure research policy became much more widely accepted at Bell Labs?
Shockley:The pure research?
Hoddeson:— letting physicists do what they wanted.
Shockley:Well, it may have become more general then, but I was pretty well doing this in 1937.
Hoddeson:Did you have any connection with Kelly College, the CDT, the program?
Shockley:Oh dear, in the forties and fifties?
Hoddeson:I think that was when it was. It was an education program.
Shockley:No, not really. I did a teaching session for Jack Morton's people when he began to set up the transistor device development group. But I never got involved in doing any of the regular courses in there. I was looking to see where this date was, somewhere in this darned thing, Brattain came back, after the war, and he wrote an entry that charmed the people in the publications department, and I thought I'd quoted it in here, and oh yes, here it is. April, '46, "A gap of more than four and one half years elapsed before Brattain made his next entry on 23 April, 1946." He starts with one sentence: "The war is over." April '46. That's not a very newsy thing. But here, you see, this chart is labeled July 31st, 1946, so that would explain it, you see. In March of '45, he was still almost one year away from being back, because he must have been back about the time he made that notebook entry.
Hoddeson:Well, I've gotten a lot out of this conversation. Is there anything special that you think we still ought to put on tape? We have just a few minutes left for winding up. Perhaps we can continue another time. I'm sure that when I go over this and read the transcript and send it to you, we'll find many places that have huge gaps that we may want to fill in some time, when it’s possible for both of us to get together.
Shockley:If you send me the transcript, mark the places where you think it would be particularly important to look, because the length of transcript of this session is something it would take great provocation to get me to read. A pile of papers which can be put aside is not likely to rise to the top of the list of priorities of activities.
Well, I'll stop this tape now, and start doing the rewinding.
 The Invention of the Transistor — An Example of Creative Failure Methodology,” W. Schockley, NBS Special Publication 388, Proc. Conf. on Public Needs and Role of Inventor, June 1973 (Issue May 7, p.47)
 refer to p. 52 of “Transistor” article, included here following p. 30