Will Shockley

William Bradford Shockley


William Shockley is the co-inventor of the transistor, the basic component for all computing devices. Statistic analysis was his specialty, and he contributed many things to helping Americans win World War two. He is often called the father of modern electronics, and  turned Silicon Valley into a massive technology producer, but unfortunately, never acquired much wealth for himself. He worked at Bell labs with Walter Brattain and John Bardeen. With Shockley’s suggestions, the two made the first transistor. The Nobel prize is shared among all three of them. It replaced the massive energy draining vacuum tubes that caused computers to take up a whole room. During World War Two, he won the national medal of merit for improving anti-submarine tactics and training bomber pilots. His most powerful ideas were on Japan, and nuclear bombings. His words prompted the U.S. to force a surrender instead of risking the probable casualties. This led to the first atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. His ability to see the value in people was his strength, and in the end, his downfall.

Shockley became interested in eugenics, the support of skilled people having more children and less skilled people having less children. It’s a controversial topic but very politically incorrect. Are we products of our genes or the environment? He got a lot of  disapproval from the media and was even called a Nazi-ist. He was able to counter their points statistically, but he had a lack of thorough studies and bad debating skills. In the end he died from prostate cancer, barely seeing any of his children, left only with his wife.


William Shockley was born on February 13, 1910 in London, England, an only child. At age three, he moved to Palo Alto, California. His mother and father were both involved in the mining industry. They were both extremely talented, although not that creative considering their child’s name. His father, William Hillman Shockley, spoke eight languages while his mother was a Stanford graduate. However, William jr. was a spoiled brat.  He was home schooled until eight, because his parents believed they could do it better. They moved almost annually until William Sr. died in 1925.

William Shockley entered California Institute of technology In 1928. He was known for his practical jokes, like switching around the elevator control panels to different floors. Rock climbing and magic tricks were also a hobby. He married his first wife, Jean Bailey in 1933 and had their first daughter in 1934.

After the war, he became increasingly paranoid. He claimed that a secretary’s paper cut was a savage attack and demanded lie detector tests to find the culprit. He had two more sons, but was never close to home and his family ended in divorce. He remarried soon after to Emmy Lanning. He died on August 12, 1989. His children found out about his death through the newspaper.


I wanted to research him because of his obsessive work on the transistor and his ability to be able to calculate the value of cities and resources so effectively. I am also a bit paranoid and obsessive over the things I see interesting, and I am also a guy interested in inventions. I want to get into the field of modern electronics, and the person who started it all is a great person to study. He is also extremely controversial in his opinions reflecting society at war and peace, when people accepted his analysis on the “enemy Japanese”, but not on the people at home.