Manual Broken Genius: The rise and fall of William Shockley, creator of the electronic age

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He did not, however, find any redeeming features. We can now be confident that William Shockley really was as detestable as he always appeared.

An Unregulated Flow of Paranoia

Shockley snatched opprobrium from the jaws of glory. In he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for his role in the development of the transistor; in subsequent decades he became notorious for promoting the idea that black people were innately less intelligent than whites. He attempted to capitalise on his scientific success by launching an electronics company, but alienated his senior staff to the extent that they mutinied, dispersing to find fortunes under other banners.


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Although he thus has a claim to be the founder of Silicon Valley, it's a legacy that mocks him. As far as this biography Shockley's first can establish, the only person who sees him as a great man is his second wife, who also seems to have been the only person with whom he formed a truly successful relationship. Shurkin devotes himself to narrative and is sparing with analysis, doubtless mindful of the feelings of the Shockley family, whose commitment to archiving prompts him to describe them as "in some ways both a biographer's delight and worst nightmare".

William Shockley screen cast

But he doesn't spare details such as how Shockley devoted himself to helping find a cure for his first wife's cancer, and then informed her the marriage was over while she was still recovering; nor does he refrain from suggesting that Shockley's medical efforts were probably motivated more by their intellectual challenge than by concern for his spouse.

Perhaps they were also impelled by his drive to analyse and order all processes that came to his attention. One of the most interesting of the episodes in this book is the account of what Shockley did in the war, an intervention in the careers of many scientists that showed what they could achieve when applying themselves to unfamiliar problems in extraordinary circumstances.

Shockley proved to be a modern manager ahead of his time, specialising in improving the efficiency of combat operations through performance review and cost-benefit analysis, which found the bombing of Germany to be "profitable".


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Management was never enough for him, though. He always needed to be in control. A photograph issued by his postwar employer, Bell Telephone Laboratories, shows him as he wished to be seen, regally seated at a workbench with a colleague standing each side of him.

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But these colleagues, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen, had been the first to make a working transistor. Shockley manoeuvred to get a share of both the glory and the proceeds. Why not share! Embed Size px. Start on. Show related SlideShares at end. WordPress Shortcode. Published in: Engineering.

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Views Total views. Actions Shares. Embeds 0 No embeds. No notes for slide. Book details Author : J. Description this book Broken Genius This is the first biography of William Shockley, founding father of Silicon Valley - one of the most significant and reviled scientists of the 20th century. Shurkin pdf, Download J. If you want to download this book, click link in the last page 5.