Integrated Circuit Co-Inventor Dies at 81

Jack St. Clair Kilby, the man who helped invent the integrated circuit in the 1950s, died Monday following a brief battle with cancer. He was 81.

His invention helped spur the technology that is used within everything from handheld Blackberrys to Cray supercomputers to automobiles and video equipment.

“In my opinion, there are only a handful of people whose works have truly transformed the world and the way we live in it — Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Jack Kilby,” said Tom Engibous, chairman of Texas Instruments (TI), said in a statement. “If there was ever a seminal invention that transformed not only our industry but our world, it was Jack’s invention of the first integrated circuit.”

Jack St. Clair Kilby

Jack St. Clair Kilby

Kilby won a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the integrated chip in 2000 and has been awarded the National Medal of Technology and National Medal of Science, one of only 13 other Americans to receive both awards.

In 1995, he was awarded the Robert N. Noyce Award by the Semiconducter Industry Association (SIA). Noyce is the man who is credited with co-inventing the integrated circuit with Kilby.

In his lifetime, Kilby has amassed more than 60 patents in the electronics industry, which include the handheld electronic calculator and the thermal printer, both of which he co-invented according to his biography at TI’s Web site.

The Great Bend, Kan., native spent much of his career at TI, which he joined in 1958. In September of that year, Kilby conceived, built and demonstrated the integrated circuit technology. The first chips were introduced in 1960 and in 1962 the company was awarded its first major contract to develop chips for Minuteman missiles.

George Scalise, SIA president, said Kilby’s invention is a great example of thinking outside the box and extended the organization’s condolences to Kilby’s family.

“Faced with an assignment from the U.S. Army Signal Corps to design a ‘micro-module’ with components of similar size and shape, Jack recognized that the complexity of the latest electronic devices meant this solution wouldn’t work,” he said in a statement. “His creation of the first working integrated circuit was a totally different approach that solved this problem. Jack Kilby’s genius helped launch one of the world’s most important industries.”

Kilby received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1947, receiving his graduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1950. He also holds honorary degrees from several institutions.

He leaves behind two daughters, Janet and Ann, and five granddaughters.

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