Jack Kilby developed the first integrated circuit and demonstrated its success to his employer Texas Instruments today in 1958, leading to his Noble prize in Physics. Now WE know em


Jack St. Clair Kilby was born November 8, 1923 in Jefferson City, Missouri.

His family moved to Great Bend, Kansas where, as he later described it, he grew up among the industrious descendants of the western settlers of the American Great Plains.

His father was an electrical engineer and as a teenager became interested in electronics with amateur radio.

The now 6’6” soft spoken Jack graduated from Great Bend High School in 1941.

Jack served as an electronics technician in the U.S. Army during World War II.

After the war, Jack enrolled in the electrical engineering program at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

In 1947, he received his BS degree in Electrical Engineering.

Jack went on to obtain his master of science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Milwaukee (which later became the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee) in 1950, while simultaneously working in Milwaukee.

From 1947 to 1958, Jack worked for Centralab, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, designing and developing ceramic based silk screen circuits.

Texas Instruments

Then in mid-1958, Jack Kilby joined Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas as an engineer who did not even have the right to a summer vacation.

At first, he had no specific tasks and had to find himself a suitable topic in the general direction of “miniaturization”.

Jack spent the summer of 1958 working on the problem of circuit design that was commonly called the “tyranny of numbers” and finally came to his epoch-making “monolithic idea.”

He realized that, instead of connecting separate components, an entire electronic assembly could be made as one unit from one semiconducting material by overlaying it with various impurities to replicate individual electronic components, such as resistors, capacitors, and transistors.

Jack thus concluded that manufacturing circuit components en masse in a single piece of semiconductor material could provide a solution.

Soon, Jack had a working postage-stamp-size prototype manufactured from germanium.


Kilby's original integrated circuit

Kilby’s original integrated circuit

On August 28, 1958, Jack assembled his first prototype of an integrated circuit using discrete components and received approval for implementing it on one chip. Jack had access to technologies that allowed him to form mesa transistors, mesa diodes and capacitors based on p-n junctions on a germanium (but not silicon) chip, and the bulk material of the chip could be used for resistors.

The standard Texas Instruments chip for the production of 25 (5×5) mesa transistors was 10×10 mm in size.

Jack cut it into five-transistor 10×1.6 mm strips, but later used not more than two of them.

Thus, on September 12, 1958, Jack Kilby presented his integrated circuit prototype to Texas Instrument management, which included Mark Shepherd.

He showed them a piece of germanium with an oscilloscope attached, pressed a switch, and the oscilloscope showed a continuous sine wave, proving that his integrated circuit worked and thus solved the problem.

On September 19, he made a second prototype, this time a two-transistor trigger.

On February 6, 1959, Texas Instruments filed a patent application for U.S. Patent 3,138,743, a “miniaturized electronic circuit.”

Between February and May 1959, Jack filed a series of applications: U.S. Patent 3,072,832, U.S. Patent 3,138,743, U.S. Patent 3,138,744, U.S. Patent 3,115,581 and U.S. Patent 3,261,081 (they carry very different numbers because of the spread in the issue dates – the larger the number the later the issue).

Texas Instruments introduced Jack Kilby’s inventions to the public on March 6, 1959.

Four months later, Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation filed a patent application for essentially the same device, but based on a different manufacturing procedure.

Jack Kilby went on to pioneer military, industrial and commercial applications of microchip technology.

In 1960, Texas Instruments named him Manger of Engineering, Semiconductor Networks, and in 1967, he was named Manager of the TI Technology Customer Requirements Department.

Beginning in 1970, he began to explore the use of silicon technology for generating electrical power from sunlight.


For those of you that have never seen one, Jack is holding handheld calculators.

For those of you that have never seen one, Jack is holding handheld calculators.

Jack Kilby also became the inventor of the handheld calculator and the thermal printer that was used in portable data terminals.

I myself, actually owned a Texas Instruments hand-held calculator when I was in college in the late 70’s.

In 1970, Jack received the National Medal of Science from President Richard M. Nixon in a White House ceremony, and in 1982, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Also in 1970, Jack took a leave of absence from TI to work as an independent inventor. He explored, among other subjects, the use of silicon technology for generating electrical power from sunlight.

From 1978 to 1984, Jack held the position of Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Jack officially retired from Texas Instruments in 1983, but continued to consult with TI and other companies.

Then he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 2000.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, breaking with a trend of recognizing only theoretical physicists, awarded half of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Physics to applied physicist Jack Kilby “for basic work on information and communication technology and his part in the invention of the integrated circuit” and the other half to Zhores I. Alferov and Herbert Kroemer “for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed- and opto-electronics.”

The holder of more than 60 patents at the time of his passing, Jack Kilby died June 20, 2005 in Dallas, Texas, after a brief battle with cancer at the age of 81.

On December 14, 2005, Texas Instruments created the Historic TI Archives. The Jack Kilby family donated his personal manuscripts and his personal photograph collection to Southern Methodist University. The collection will be cataloged and stored at DeGolyer Library, SMU.

In 2008, the SMU School of Engineering, with the DeGolyer Library and the Library of Congress, hosted a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the birth of the digital age with Jack Kilby’s Nobel Prize-winning invention of the integrated circuit. Symposia and exhibits examined the many ways in which technology and engineers shaped the modern world.

Jack Kilby was a holder of an honorary Doctorate of Science from SMU and longtime associate of SMU through the Kilby Foundation.

Now WE know em



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