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Invention of the Point Contact Transistor, 1954

Midwestern Mentality

Walter Brattain and John Bardeen were highly educated and well-respected in the field of theoretical physics. Both scientists grew up in America's Heartland—Brattain in Washington State and Bardeen in Wisconsin. They became friends in Princeton, New Jersey, when Bardeen was working to complete his PhD in theoretical physics at Princeton University. He and Robert Brattain, Walter's brother, were classmates, and the young men bonded over their mutual enjoyment of bridge and bowling, united by their Midwestern upbringing. Brattain and Bardeen complemented each other first as friends and later as lab partners, and by all accounts enjoyed working together to improve the field of communications.

Brattain and Bardeen were awarded a Ballantine Medal from The Franklin Institute as well as a Nobel Prize for their pioneering work in the development of the transistor. In his opening remarks at the 1952 Franklin Institute awards ceremony, Dr. Winthrop R. Wright acknowledged the scientists' "contribution to the theory of surface states in semi-conductors and of their invention of the Point Contact Transistor, a device foreshadowing a notable advance in the means of electromagnetic communication." You can read Dr. Wright's remarks in full and access lists of credentials of and publications by Bardeen and Brattain by clicking on the thumbnails at right.


Dr. John Bardeen, in June of 1963. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.


Dr. John Bardeen, around 1980. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.