Dear Mr. Shurkin:
enjoyed reading your exploration of the ever fascinating Shockley story
although it was very sad to read your portrayal of the his last
days. Poor Emmy!
I was, however, a bit shocked to
read on page 174 "One man, R. V. Jones, resigned weeks after being
hired." Further, that Shockley had only three PhD physicists
(page 168-169) at the time of the rental of 391 South San Antonio Road
also came as quite a surprise. (By the way it wasn't a
Quonset.) I went on the SSL
payroll in late 1955 and left for Harvard in the Spring of 1957.
That's a lot of weeks. In case you doubt my recollection of
long ago times, Shockley and I filed a patent application
(granted April 1961 as #2,979,386) on August 1956 for what became in
SSL lore the legendary (or, perhaps better, infamous) crystal growing
apparatus. My work on this crazy machine involved a huge amount
of travel, research into bizarre materials and a lot of time with
designers and lawyers. My departure from the SSL in 1957 is noted
in Leslie Berlin's book.
As background, Shockley first tried
to recruit me in the Fall of 1955 while I was finishing up my thesis at
Berkeley. I was flattered, but uninterested since I had already
accepted a really great research job at Bell Labs. Shockley after
wining and dinning me, tried an interesting hook. He said he
understood my hesitation and would back off, but asked, as a favor, if
I would help him "calibrate" McMurray-Hamstraas by seeing if their
evaluation agreed with his. One thing led to another and I soon
became stigmatized at Bell Labs as the nincompoop that Shockley conned
out of a serious scientific job. For a couple of months, Shockley
paraded me around APS and NAS meetings as some kind of prize, since he
not been able to recruit any of his old BTL buddies.
I realize the SSL is not the focus of your book, I do think that you
and other writers have missed one of Shockley's truly outstanding
contributions - viz., the advent of the mesa transistor as a metaphor
for fabrication techniques which rely on the control of "natural
process." In my first conversations with Shockley, he argued or,
should I say, obsessed - from his experience with the mesa transistor -
that the required small scale of transistor dimensions could only be
reliably achieved by the careful control of natural or physical
processes such as chemical diffusion, chemical etching and ion
implantation. Since these and like techniques have come to dominate
nearly every aspect of current technology (not only IC fabrication, but
also integrated optics, micromechanics, microbiology,etc.), this may
represent Shockley's most visionary contribution.
One of the
small ironies of the Shockley-Termite connection is that his first SSL
secretary - Carol Hymsworth(sp?) - was a much studied Termite.
Carol, in fact, was the person injured by the much discussed broken
Thanks for a good read, Victor Jones