Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jack Kilby, DoD Money, Bloggers, and Milwaukee

What do Owen Robinson, UW-Milwaukee, and the old Centralab Division of Globe-Union (now Johnson Controls) have in common?

Read on.

Kilby received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he is an honorary member of the Acacia fraternity. In 1947, he received a degree in Electrical Engineering. He obtained his master of science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1950, while simultaneously working at Centralab in Milwaukee.

In the summer of 1958, Kilby was a newly employed engineer at Texas Instruments who did not yet have the right to a summer vacation. He spent the summer working on the problem in circuit design that was commonly called the "tyranny of numbers" and finally came to the conclusion that manufacturing the circuit components en masse in a single piece of semiconductor material could provide a solution. On September 12 he presented his findings to the management of Texas Instruments: he showed them a piece of germanium with an oscilloscope attached, pressed a switch, and the oscilloscope showed a continuous sine wave, proving that his integrated circuit worked and thus that he solved the problem. A patent for a "Solid Circuit made of Germanium", the first integrated circuit, was filed on February 6, 1959. In addition to the integrated circuit, Kilby also is noted for patenting the electronic portable calculator and the thermal printer used in data terminals. In total, he held about 60 patents.
1978 to 1985, he was Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M University. In 1983, Kilby retired from Texas Instruments.

Answer: a direct or indirect brush with genius.

In breezing through articles pertinent to Kilby, one is reminded of the enormous influence of military spending on Milwaukee's economy. Centralab was utilized by the military to assist in the development of proximity fuses for the 81mm howitzer; it's reasonable to speculate that the UW-M Electrical Engineering department was influenced by the proximity of A.C. Delco's NASA/military engineers (first on Prospect Avenue, later in Oak Creek.)

And although many people don't know it, the Norden bombsights folks built a facility on Hawley Road for manufacture of their product (the building was later occupied by Allis-Chalmers' Switchgear Division and is now a WallyWorld.)

In addition, Louis Allis not only supplied electrical motors for USN submarines, but also built several manufacturing facilities in the Greendale/Greenfield area (under assumed names, no less!!) for production of other military goods and for production of coil-winding machinery during WWII.


John Foust said...

That's the Norden bombsight. It was a Wisconsin woman who was permitted to reveal the story of the Norden in Life magazine as well.

Dad29 said...

Thanks, John. Corrected.