Jack Kilby Biography

(Inventor of integrated circuit)

Birthday: November 8, 1923 (Scorpio)

Born In: Jefferson City

Jack Kilby can be rightly acknowledged as the face of modern computing, for had it not been for his invention of the integrated circuit and microchip, the computer industry wouldn’t have been what it is today. The world today is literally at the palm top, with integrated circuit and microchip meeting much of our daily needs and requirements. Before Kilby invented the integrated circuit, computers were mostly room-sized with a restricted usage. It was his discovery that transformed the machine into the size we use today. The small wonder has revolutionized the way electronic industry works and can be safely regarded as a historical discovery in computer technology. Jack Kilby’s association with science and electronics was long. Having an affinity for physics and mathematics since early on, Kilby, after completing his studies, took up job at Texas Instruments. It was while solving the problem of ‘tyranny of numbers’ that Kilby was first struck with the idea of an integrated circuit. Working along the idea, in 1958, he eventually invented the integrated circuit. For the same, he received numerous prestigious and esteemed awards and honors, including the Nobel Prize. Kilby’s other contribution include invention of thermal printer and world’s first integrated-circuit based calculator
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Jack St. Clair Kilby

Died At Age: 81

Electrical Engineers Electronics Engineers

Died on: June 20, 2005

place of death: Dallas

Cause of Death: Cancer

U.S. State: Missouri

discoveries/inventions: Integrated Circuit

More Facts

education: University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Great Bend High School

awards: 2000 - Nobel Prize in Physics
1989 - Charles Stark Draper Prize
1986 - IEEE Medal of Honor

1990 - National Medal of Technology and Innovation
1970 - National Medal of Science for Engineering

Childhood & Early Life
Jack Kilby was born on November 8, 1923 in Jefferson City, Missouri. His father owned a small electric company, which ignited in young Kilby the passion for electronics.
During World War II, Kilby served in the military as a technician stationed in India. Since an early age, Kilby, much like his father was hooked to radio so much so that he was often called an amateur radio buff.
Academically proficient, Kilby completed his preliminary education from the Great Bend High School. In 1947, he completed his graduation with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois. Three years later, he completed his Masters’ in the subject from the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Milwaukee.
While studying for his Masters’ in Electrical Engineering, Kilby worked at the Centralab in Milwaukee. An electronic manufacturing company, he was involved in making parts of radio, television and hearing aids.
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In 1958, Kilby commenced his career as an engineer at the Texas Instruments. His long-held interest in working on electronic component miniaturization realized with this appointment.
At the time of his appointment, the ‘tyranny of numbers’ was a prevalent problem that the electronic industry was facing while designing circuits. Kilby soon dismissed the universal belief that a micro-module would solve the problem. He instead believed that a semiconductor was the only cost-effective way to provide the solution
Working on his ideas, he combined the isolated electronic components so as to make them work in a miniature environment. This led to the evolution of an integrated circuit, the first miniaturized electronic circuit that revolutionized the way technology was used until then. He filed for a US patent on February 1959. Kilby shares the credit of the invention of integrated circuit along with Robert Noyce, an inventor who too developed another type of the integrated circuit.
Following his big breakthrough, Jack Kilby’s integrated circuit found a place in military, industrial and commercial application. The microchip technology assisted in building the first of both the military system and the computer-incorporated integrated circuit.
Though the invention of integrated circuit was a revolution for the computing world, people were sceptical of its performance and abilities. As such, to put an end to all cynicism, he went on to develop a calculator which would successfully commercialize the integrated circuit. People were amazed by the creation of the pocket device which though miniature in size was as powerful as the electro-mechanical computer.
Kilby is also credited with devising the thermal printer. The printer served as a useful device in day-to-day application and was primarily used in portable data terminals.
With an aim to work independently, Kilby took a leave of absence from Texas Instruments in 1970. During this time, he explored the use of silicon technology in generating electrical power from sunlight.
For six years, from 1978 to 1984, Kilby held the position of Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M University. Meanwhile in 1983, he retired from Texas Instruments.
Major Works
Kilby’s most important contribution in the field of electronic technology has been as the inventor of integrated circuit. It was while solving the problem of ‘tyranny of numbers’ while at Texas Instruments that Kilby was first struck with the idea of miniaturization of electronic circuits. In September 1958, he finally came up with the design of an integrated circuit. He combined isolated electronic elements to work together in a miniature environment thus leading to his most revolutionary discovery.
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Other than discovering the integrated circuit, Kilby is also noted as the inventor of thermal printers and world’s first integrated-circuit based calculator. This pocket sized device was first termed Pocketronic.
Awards & Achievements
For his outstanding contribution in the field of engineering and technology, Kilby was bestowed with nation’s most prestigious honors of the field such as the National Medal of Science in 1969 and later National Medal of Technology in 1990.
In 1967, he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Engineering and later in 1982 was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers recognized the significant contribution made by Kilby in the field of electronic technology and subsequently awarded him with the numerous awards including IEEE Fellow, IEEE David Sarnoff Award, IEEE Cledo Brunetti Award, IEEE Centennial Medal and IEEE Medal of Honor.
In 1998, he received Honorary Professorship from the National Chiao Tung University (NCTU) in Taiwan
Kilby became the proud recipient of the highly esteemed Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 for his breakthrough invention of the integrated circuit. He shared the honor with Robert Noyce and acknowledged the latter’s contribution in the field.
In addition to awards and medals, Kilby was honoured with honorary doctorate degree from several universities including Southern Methodist University, the University of Miami, University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Texas A&M University and Yale and Rochester Institute of Technology.
Personal Life & Legacy
Kilby breathed his last on June 20, 2005 in Dallas, Texas. He was suffering from cancer.
Posthumously, several buildings and institutions have been named after him including The Kilby Center, TI's Research Center for silicon manufacturing, the Jack Kilby Computer Centre at the Merchiston Campus of Edinburgh Napier University and so on.
The calculator which we so often use today bears its emergence to this American electrical engineer who also invented the integrated circuit.
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