The Transistor's Real Inventor?
Years before the work of Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain, German physicist Julius Edgar Lilienfeld (1881-1963) obtained three US patents that covered the principles on which the field-effect transistor operates. A few years later, fellow German physicist Oskar Heil (1908-1994) was granted a field-effect device patent of his own. Should Lilienfeld and Heil be credited as the fathers of the transistor?
Heil's patent was granted in the UK on 6 December 1935 and derived from an application made on 4 March the previous year, in Germany and in Britain, where Heil was working. Lilienfeld's first patent - "Method and Apparatus for Controlling Electric Currents" - was granted in the US on 28 January 1930, four years after it was filed, on 8 October 1926. Lilienfeld's second patent - "Device for Controlling Electric Current" - was filed on 28 March 1928 and granted on 7 March 1933.
Lilienfeld's devices have since been made and show to work as he predicted, but it's not known whether he himself made one. Or Heil, for that matter. We'll probably never know if they did, which leaves Bardeen and Brattain credited as the men who made the first working transistor.
They applied for patent to protect their discovery on 17 June 1948. It was granted on 3 October 1950.
Lilienfeld's field-effect transistor
It has been claimed that Shockley, for one, was aware of Lilienfeld's work, and built a working version of a Lilienfeld transistor. However, Shockley never referred to either Heil or Lilienfeld's work in his own research papers.
And then there are German physicists Herbert Mataré (1912- ) and Heinrich Welker (1912-1981), who created a point-contact transistor of their own during 1948. By June of that year, they had begun to obtain consistent amplification - only to learn, a month later, Bell Labs' team had beaten them to it some six months previously.
That didn't stop them putting their 'transistron' into production, but like Bardeen and Brattain's design, it would soon be superseded by Shockley's junction transistor.
More Forgotten Tech...
• 15 years ago: the first mass-produced GSM phone
• Compact Disc: 25 years old today
• From 1981: the World's first UMPC
• The IBM ThinkPad: 15 years old today
• Apple's first handheld: the Newton MessagePad
• Atari's Portfolio: the world's first palmtop
• 'Timna' - Intel's first system-on-a-chip
• BeOS: the Mac OS X might-have-been
The transistor turns 60
The vacuum tube was invented and patent-applied a year before de Forest by an Austrian gentleman in Vienna. History repeating ...
We're all 9 months older today...
as Reg readers decide to redefine "birth" as "conception".
The birth of trasistor was properly dated to the first successful construction of the device, not to the first conception of the idea.
Transistor approaches 100 years old ?
Couple of points here:
I have just looked at Lilienfeld's 1930 transistor patent, applied for in 1926, US1745175 which is available on line from the EPO ep.espacenet.com . It even gives a circuit diagram for a transistor radio. The transistor itself seems to be a FET rather than an NPN junction transistor.
There is an even earlier transistor patent dating from 1911, which was cited by the British patent office when they were examining the Schockley / Bell labs case. That one is a three terminal point contact device. Unfortunately I do not remember the number or the inventor. Does anyone else have details?
Switch me on, baby
I understood that Bell were only really interested in the transformer as a switch initially. As a result, they sold the rights for amplifier use to the nascent Sony for a handful of beans. Shortly afterwards Sony produced the first all-transistor radio and then the all-transistor television ...
We should also remember vacuum tubes
Which are (almost) 100 years old as well. Any way you can amplify a signal works for me. If I were doing it from scratch and knowing about vacuum tubes AND transistors, I'd pick vacuum tubes as they would be easier to make. Yes, hotter, and bulkier, but easier to make.
Look I'm the USA, and we call them vacuum tubes here, not "valves".
I don't have the exact date of Lee DeForest's invention with me at the moment so the 100 year difference may be off by a couple either way.