Jack Kilby

Jack Kilby Biography

Engineer, Inventor (1923–2005)
Jack Kilby was an electrical engineer who invented the integrated circuit and microchip, thus greatly influencing the shape of modern computing.


Born on November 8, 1923, in Jefferson City, Missouri, Jack Kilby earned degrees in electrical engineering and, in 1958 at Texas Instruments, invented the integrated circuit, a historical, integral part of modern computing. Having come up with the technology for pocket calculators as well, Kilby held many patents and was later awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics. He died on June 20, 2005.

Early Life and Education

Jack St. Clair Kilby was born on November 8, 1923, in Jefferson, City, Missouri, and raised in Great Bend, Kansas. An amateur radio buff, Kilby went on to serve in the military during World War II—he was stationed in India as a technician—before attending school in the United States on the G.I. Bill.

With his father having worked in the field as well, Kilby received his degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1947, going on to earn his master's from the University of Wisconsin three years later. He wed Barbara Annegers in 1948, and the couple went on to have two daughters and five granddaughters.

Invents Microchip...

The very statuesque Jack Kilby joined the staff of Globe Union Inc. in 1947 while attending graduate school, doing developmental work in circuitry at the company. He started working at Texas Instruments in 1958, where he was soon able to design an integrated circuit, combining previously isolated electronic elements to work together in a miniature environment that would be known as the microchip.

Kilby's invention was revolutionary for the computing/technological world and marked the beginnings of devices that have become a basic part of life. Robert Noyce of Fairchild Semiconductor devised another type of integrated circuit shortly after Kilby's, and the men's respective companies eventually negotiated a cross-licensing agreement.

...And Pocket Calculator

Having come up up with the thermal printer as well, Kilby later invented the first integrated-circuit based calculator, dubbed the Pocketronic; a rather ornate affair initially, it would be further streamlined by the 1970s for general consumer usage and thus become the pocket calculator.

After receiving a director's position, Kilby took a leave from Texas Instruments in 1970, though continuing to work with the company even after his 1983 retirement. As an independent agent he handled solar power-based research and joined the faculty at Texas A&M University.

Earns Nobel Prize

Already inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame, among many other accolades, Kilby was awarded the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics along with Zhores I. Alferov and Herbert Kroemer. Kilby also gratefully acknowledged the contributions of Noyce, who had passed a decade earlier.

Over the course of his career, Kilby held dozens of patents and established the Jack Kilby International Awards Foundation, honoring peers and colleagues doing innovative, progressive work in science and medicine.

Jack Kilby died on June 20, 2005, at the age of 81.

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