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Invention of the Point Contact Transistor, 1954

Bending the Rules

The contents of the case file compiled on Bardeen and Brattain reveal that there was some question as to whether or not their invention of the Point Contact Transistor met the requirements for receipt of the Ballantine Award. Specifically, the Committee on Science and the Arts debated whether or not the Transistor had a direct effect on the field of communications. It was decided that, though the Point Contact Transistor was not capable of facilitating communication on its own, the device "made possible a desired end." Speaking to this point, Awards Committee Member W. R. Wright compared Bardeen and Brattain to theoreticians like Maxwell and Hertz who had received the award in the past: "In the case of theoreticians...one can point to no physical invention for which credit can be given but surely the whole field of electromagnetic invention stands on their shoulders."

Bardeen and Brattain expressed thanks for their Ballantine Medals, pictured here. You can read their words by clicking on the thumbnails at right.