William Shockley

Updated: 10/11/2021 by Computer Hope
William Shockley

Name: William Shockley

Born: February 13, 1910, London, England, United Kingdom

Death: August 12, 1989 (Age: 79)

Computer-related contributions

  • American physicist and inventor.
  • Along with John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain, Shockley co-invented the transistor.
  • Shockley's attempts to commercialize a new transistor design in the 1950s and 1960s led to California's "Silicon Valley" becoming a hotbed of electronics innovation.

Significant publications

  • Shockley on Eugenics and Race: The Application of Science to the Solution of Human Problems (1992).
  • Mechanics (1966).
  • Electrons and holes in semiconductors, with applications to transistor electronics (1956).

Honors and awards

  • Listed at #3 on the Boston Globe's MIT150 list of the top 150 innovators and ideas in the 150-year history of MIT (2011).
  • IEEE Medal of Honor (1980).
  • Nobel Prize in Physics (1956).
  • Comstock Prize in Physics (1953).
  • Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Prize (1953).
  • Named as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century by Time Magazine.


William Shockley was a proponent of eugenics, a set of beliefs and practices that aim to exclude the genetics of beings labeled inferior to the remainder of the population. He claimed black human beings were "color-coded" as intellectually inferior, and proposed the "voluntary sterilization" of individuals who scored under 100 on an IQ test. In 1982, he ran as a candidate for state senator of California on a platform of defending against the "dysgenic threat" of non-white racial groups. His legacy as a technological innovator is therefore inextricably entwined with his history as a vocal advocate of racism.


"If you take a bale of hay and tie it to the tail of a mule and then strike a match and set the bale of hay on fire, and if you then compare the energy expended shortly thereafter by the mule with the energy expended by yourself in the striking of the match, you will understand the concept of amplification."

"Nature has color-coded groups of individuals so that statistically reliable predictions of their adaptability to intellectual rewarding and effective lives can easily be made and profitably used by the pragmatic man-in-the street."

"My research leads me inescapably to the opinion that the major cause of the American Negro's intellectual and social deficits is hereditary and racially genetic in origin and, thus, not remediable to a major degree by practical improvements in the environment." (June 10, 1974)