Robert Noyce

Robert Noyce
Robert Noyce
Born December 12, 1927(1927-12-12)
Burlington, Iowa
Died June 3, 1990(1990-06-03) (aged 62)
Austin, Texas
Alma mater Grinnell College
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Occupation Co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel
Spouse Elizabeth Bottomley
Ann Bowers
Children William B. Noyce
Pendred Noyce
Priscilla Noyce
Margaret Noyce
Parents Ralph Brewster Noyce
Harriet May Norton

Robert Norton Noyce (December 12, 1927 – June 3, 1990), nicknamed "the Mayor of Silicon Valley", co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel in 1968. He is also credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the invention of the integrated circuit or microchip which fueled the personal computer revolution and gave Silicon Valley its name.[1][nb 1] Noyce was also a mentor and father-figure to an entire generation of entrepreneurs.



Early life and ancestors

He was born on December 12, 1927, in Burlington, Iowa.[nb 2][nb 3][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] He was the third of four sons[5][6] of the Rev. Ralph Brewster Noyce.[10][11] His father was a 1915 graduate of Doane College, a 1920 graduate of Oberlin College, and a 1923 graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary. He was a Congregational clergyman and the associate superintendent of the Iowa Conference of Congregational Churches in the 1930s and 1940s. His mother, Harriet May Norton, a 1921 graduate of Oberlin College, was the daughter of the Rev. Milton J. Norton, a Congregational clergyman, and Louise Hill. She has been described as an intelligent woman with a commanding will.[12]

His earliest childhood memory involves beating his father at ping pong and feeling absolutely devastated when his mother's reaction to this thrilling news was a distracted "Wasn't that nice of Daddy to let you win?" Even at the age of five, Noyce was offended by the notion of intentionally losing at anything. "That's not the game," he sulked to his mother. "If you're going to play, play to win!"[13]

In the summer of 1940, when he was 12, he built a boy-sized aircraft with his brother, which they used to fly from the roof of the Grinnell College stables. Later he built a radio from scratch and motorized his sled by welding a propeller and an engine from an old washing machine to the back of it.[14]


He grew up in Grinnell, Iowa and attended the local schools. He exhibited a talent for math and science while in high school and took the Grinnell College freshman physics course in his senior year. He graduated from Grinnell High School in 1945 and entered Grinnell College in the fall of that year. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in physics and mathematics from Grinnell College in 1949. He also received a signal honor from his classmates: the Brown Derby Prize, which recognized "the senior man who earned the best grades with the least amount of work". He received his Ph.D. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953. He studied the first transistors, developed at Bell Laboratories, in a Grinnell College classroom.

While an undergraduate, Noyce attended a physics course of the professor Grant Gale and was fascinated by the physics. Gale got hold of two of the very first transistors ever to come out of Bell Labs and showed them off to his class and Noyce was hooked. [nb 4][nb 5][nb 6][12][15][16][nb 7][nb 8][16] Grant Gale suggested that he apply to the doctoral program in physics at MIT which he did.[17] He had a mind so quick that his graduate school friends called him "Rapid Robert".[18]


After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953, he took his first job as a research engineer at the Philco Corporation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He left in 1956 for the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in Mountain View, California.

He joined William Shockley at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory,[19] a division of Beckman Instruments, but left with the "Traitorous Eight"[20] in 1957, upon having issues with respect to the quality of its management, and co-founded the influential Fairchild Semiconductor corporation. According to Sherman Fairchild, Noyce's impassioned presentation of his vision was the reason Sherman Fairchild had agreed to create the semiconductor division for the Traitorous Eight.[20]

Noyce and Gordon E. Moore founded Intel in 1968 when they left Fairchild Semiconductor.[18][21] Arthur Rock, the chairman of Intel's board and a major investor in the company said that for Intel to succeed, Intel needed Noyce, Moore and Grove. And it needed them in that order. Noyce: the visionary, born to inspire; Moore: the virtuoso of technology; and Grove: the technologist turned management scientist.[22] The relaxed culture that Noyce brought to Intel was a carry-over from his style at Fairchild Semiconductor. He treated employees as family, rewarding and encouraging team work. His follow-your-bliss management style set the tone for many Valley success stories. Noyce's management style could be called "roll up your sleeves." He shunned fancy corporate cars, reserved parking spaces, private jets, offices, and furnishings in favor of a less-structured, relaxed working environment in which everyone contributed and no one benefited from lavish perquisites. By declining the usual executive perks he stood as a model for future generations of Intel CEOs. At Intel, he oversaw Ted Hoff's invention of the microprocessor—that was his second revolution.[23][24][25]

Intel's headquarters building, the Robert Noyce Building, in Santa Clara, California is named in his honor, as is the Robert N. Noyce '49 Science Center, which houses the science division of Grinnell College.

In his last interview, Noyce was asked what he would do if he were "emperor" of the United States. He said that he would, among other things, "make sure we are preparing our next generation to flourish in a high-tech age. And that means education of the lowest and the poorest, as well as at the graduate school level."


He married Elizabeth Bottomley[26] in 1953 and divorced in 1974. They had four children together. On November 27, 1974 Noyce married Ann Schmeltz Bowers. Bowers was the first Director of Personnel for Intel Corporation and the first Vice President of Human Resources for Apple Inc. She now serves as Chair of the Board and the founding trustee of the Noyce Foundation. Active all his life, Noyce enjoyed reading Hemingway, flying his own airplane, hang gliding, and scuba diving.

He believed that microelectronics would continue to advance in complexity and sophistication well beyond its current state, leading to the question of what use society would make of the technology.

Noyce died from a heart attack at home on June 3, 1990 at the Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas.[27]

At the time of his death, he was the president and chief executive officer of Sematech Inc., a non-profit consortium that performs basic research into semiconductor manufacturing. It was organized as a partnership between the United States government and 14 corporations in an attempt to help the American computer industry catch up with the Japanese in semiconductor manufacturing technology.

Awards and honors

In July, 1959, he filed for U.S. Patent 2,981,877 "Semiconductor Device and Lead Structure", a type of integrated circuit. This independent effort was recorded only a few months after the key findings of inventor Jack Kilby. For his co-invention of the integrated circuit and its world-transforming impact, three presidents of the United States honored him.

Noyce was a holder of many honors and awards. President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Technology in 1987. Two years later, George H.W. Bush inducted him into the Business Hall of Fame. President George H. W. Bush presented the award, sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering, in a black-tie ceremony held at the State Department. In 1990 also Noyce—along with Jack Kilby, transistor inventor John Bardeen, and some other celebrities, received a "Lifetime Achievement Medal" during the bicentennial celebration of the Patent Act.

Noyce received the Stuart Ballantine Medal in 1966. He was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1978 "for his contributions to the silicon integrated circuit, a cornerstone of modern electronics."[28] In 1979, he was awarded the National Medal of Science. Noyce was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980.[29] In 1990, the National Academy of Engineering awarded him its Draper Prize.

Mr. Noyce was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1989. The science building at his alma mater, Grinnell College, is named after him..


The Noyce Foundation was founded in 1991 by his family. The foundation is dedicated to improving public education in mathematics and science in grades K-12.


He accumulated sixteen patents to his name.

  • U.S. Patent 2,875,141 Method and apparatus for forming semiconductor structures, filed August 1954, issued February 1959, assigned to Philco Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 2,929,753 Transistor structure and method, filed April 1957, issued March 1960, assigned to Beckmann Instruments
  • U.S. Patent 2,959,681 Semiconductor scanning device, filed June 1959, issued November 1960, assigned to Fairchild Semiconductor
  • U.S. Patent 2,968,750 Transistor structure and method of making the same, filed March 1957, issued January 1961, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 2,971,139 Semiconductor switching device, filed June 1959, issued February 1961, assigned to Fairchild Semiconductor
  • U.S. Patent 2,981,877 Semiconductor Device and Lead Structure, filed July 1959, issued April 1961, assigned to Fairchild Semiconductor
  • U.S. Patent 3,010,033 Field effect transistor, filed January 1958, issued November 1961, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 3,098,160 Field controlled avalanche semiconductive device, filed February 1958, issued July 1963, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 3,108,359 Method for fabricating transistors, filed June 1959, issued October 1963, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.
  • U.S. Patent 3,111,590 Transistor structure controlled by an avalanche barrier, filed June 1958, issued November 1963, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 3,140,206 Method of making a transistor structure (coinventor William Shockley), filed April 1957, issued July 1964, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 3,150,299 Semiconductor circuit complex having isolation means, filed September 1959, issued September 1964, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.
  • U.S. Patent 3,183,129 Method of forming a semiconductor, filed July 1963, issued May 1965, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.
  • U.S. Patent 3,199,002 Solid state circuit with crossing leads, filed April 1961, issued August 1965, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.
  • U.S. Patent 3,325,787 Trainable system, filed October 1964, issued June 1967, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.


  1. ^ Lécuyer, p. 129
  2. ^ Jones, 54
  3. ^ Jones, 86
  4. ^ Jones, 142
  5. ^ a b Berlin, p. 10
  6. ^ a b Berlin, p. 11
  7. ^ Burt, 71
  8. ^ Berlin, p. 14
  9. ^ Welles Gaylord, p. 130
  10. ^ Jones, p. 625
  11. ^ Jones, p. 626
  12. ^ a b Wolfe, Tom (December 1983). "The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce". Esquire Magazine. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  13. ^ Berlin, p. 12
  14. ^ Berlin, p. 7
  15. ^ Berlin, p. 22
  16. ^ a b Berlin, p. 24
  17. ^ Berlin, p. 106
  18. ^ a b Berlin, p. 1
  19. ^ Shurkin, p. 170
  20. ^ a b Shurkin, p. 181
  21. ^ Shurkin, p. 184
  22. ^ Tedlow, p. 405
  23. ^ One-time Intel CEO Andy Grove on the other hand, believed in maximizing the productivity of his employees, and he and the company became known for his guiding motto: "Only the paranoid survive". He was notorious for his directness in finding fault and would question his colleagues so intensely as occasionally to border on intimidation.
  24. ^ Garten, Jeffrey E. (April 11, 2005). "Andy Grove Made The Elephant Dance". Business Week. Retrieved 2010-05-07. 
  25. ^ Grove considered Noyce to be a "nice guy" but ineffectual. Noyce was, in Grove's estimation, essentially anti-competitive. This difference in styles reputedly caused some degree of friction between Noyce and Grove.
  26. ^ "Elizabeth B. Noyce, 65, Benefactor of Maine With Vast Settlement From Her Divorce". The New York Times. September 20, 1996. Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  27. ^ Hays, Constance L. (June 4, 1990). "An Inventor of the Microchip, Robert N. Noyce, Dies at 62". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Robert Noyce". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 18 July 2011. 
  29. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter N". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 April 2011. 

Notes 2

  1. ^ While Kilby's invention was six months earlier, neither man rejected the title of co-inventor.
  2. ^ He was born into a family with deep Midwestern roots that trace back to Mayflower passengers, Love Brewster, a founder of the town of Bridgewater, Massachusetts; Elder William Brewster, the Pilgrim colonist leader and spiritual elder of the Plymouth Colony; and William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony and the second signer and primary architect of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor.
  3. ^ He was also a descendant of Martha Wadsworth Brewster, a notable 18th-century American poet and writer, and the Rev. Reuben Gaylord, a clergyman and a founder of Grinnell College.
  4. ^ At the same time however, Robert had problems, because of his intractable nature. His tipping outhouses, lighting illegal fireworks were harmless, but when he and a partner in crime downed a few drinks and set off to steal the pig for the luau, this was a different matter entirely.
  5. ^ When Noyce and his housemate repented and returned to the farm with an offer to pay for the pig, whose absence had not yet been noticed, the farmer was furious. He complained to Grinnell's president, Samuel Nowell Stevens, and well as contacting the local sheriff and insisted on bringing criminal charges against them. Robert's last year in the college were suspended and in 1948 he was exiled not only from the college, but from the town of Grinnell as well.
  6. ^ He decided to spend his semester's expulsion working as a clerk in the actuarial department of the Equitable Life Insurance Company in New York City.
  7. ^ He returned to Grinnell and graduated with his class in the spring of 1949.
  8. ^ Then he tried to join the United States Air Force, but when he learned he could not serve as a fighter pilot, because he was color blind, he swore to avoid military service all together.


  • Berlin, Leslie The man behind the microchip: Robert Noyce and the invention of Silicon Valley Publisher Oxford University Press US, 2005 ISBN 0195163435
  • Burt, Daniel S. The chronology of American literature: America's literary achievements from the colonial era to modern times Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. ISBN 0618168214
  • Jones, Emma C. Brewster. The Brewster Genealogy, 1566-1907: a Record of the Descendants of William Brewster of the "Mayflower," ruling elder of the Pilgrim church which founded Plymouth Colony in 1620. New York: Grafton Press, 1908.
  • Lécuyer, Christophe. Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970 Published by MIT Press, 2006.ISBN 0262122812
  • Shurkin, Joel N.. Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age Publisher Palgrave Macmillan, 2007 ISBN 0230551920
  • Tedlow, Richard S. Giants of enterprise: seven business innovators and the empires they built Publisher Harper Collins, 2003 ISBN 0066620368

Further reading

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Company founded
Intel CEO
Succeeded by
Gordon Moore

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