Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age” as Want to Read:
Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  50 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
When William Shockley invented the transistor, the world was changed forever and he was awarded the Nobel Prize. But today Shockley is often remembered only for his incendiary campaigning about race, intelligence, and genetics. His dubious research led him to donate to the Nobel Prize sperm bank and preach his inflammatory ideas widely, making shocking pronouncements on th ...more
Paperback, 378 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Palgrave Macmillan (first published September 19th 1997)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Broken Genius, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Broken Genius

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 255)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 07, 2012 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bill Shockley should be a lot more famous than he is. His name should be mentioned in the same sentence as Bill Gates, Hewlett and Packard, Larry Ellison. And he should have been richer than all of them combined. The fact that not only did that not happen, but he died in infamy, estranged from just about the entire world save his second wife Emmy is the subject of this fascinating albeit imperfect book by Joel Shurkin.

In case you are wondering, Shockley is considered - rightly so, according to S
Oct 02, 2013 Gerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was fascinated with this book on the early part that lead up to the development and creation of the silicon transistor. The operations research during the Second World War was also fascinating to me. A 1956 Nobel Laureate he could have lived peacefully later as he also was a tenured professor at Stanford University. He had what most people seek, all the money he needed to live comfortably, a good reputation later tarnished by himself and he chose not to live quietly in any way or mean. He neve ...more
John P
Aug 15, 2015 John P rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been asked, of my reviews of biographies, am I reviewing the book? - or the person? Good question. I answer that I am reviewing primarily the person via the lens of the book and I think this is as it should be.

The execution of the biography itself - the creation and editing of the text, the selection and inclusion of photos and graphics, and the rest of the mechanics of producing a volume - may cloud or distort the image of the subject that the reader takes away and in this regard we sugg
Richard M.
Feb 06, 2015 Richard M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[NOTE: This review is not in a typical review format. It is simply a list of notes and oddball items I found in the book that were interesting or noteworthy. Some spoilers are included below.]

- This book focuses on the life & brilliance of William B. Shockley, father of the electronic age, Nobel Laureate in physics, Stanford professor, world-traveler, inventor of the “junction transistor”, and supervisor & director of the two Bell Labs men (John Bardeen and Walter Brittain) who invented
Jul 22, 2014 Geraldine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a tough read because of some of the technical information but is educational and enjoyable. I learned a lot of history about the transistor's invention and rise of electronics.
Jul 17, 2015 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Shockley - what an odd duck.

A core participant in the "military-industrial complex," Shockley had the talent for alienating everyone he came in contact with save his second wife Emmy.

This biography is tremendously enriched by Shockley's habit of saving everything he ever touched, tiny scraps of minutiae that round out the picture of this strange genius.

He founded the first chip firm in Silicon Valley. You've never heard of it because all his key employees hated him so much they jumped sh
Jul 23, 2010 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-tech
This book is a remarkable portrait of Shockley. To me Shockley cuts a very sorry figure, from the time of his involvement with Brattain and Bardeen in creating the transistor, to his descent into eugenics and racism. Joel Shurkin does his best to present a sympathetic portrait of Shockley, but his subject persona is uncompromising, uncouth and almost completely devoid of the ability to express love or affection. The rare exceptions to this pattern of behavior in this memoir serve to prove the ru ...more
Oct 14, 2015 Nikki rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karenbike Patterson
This is a poorly edited book about an unusual man who today would probably be diagnosed with aspergers. Wm. Shockley had the theory that started the invention of the silicon transistor. When his own company to improve and manufacture the these failed to his mismanagement, he turned his obsessive attention to eugenics. His first marriage failed (he told his wife he wanted out when she was being treated for cancer) and all his family and friends were estranged, only his second wife stood by him. H ...more
Jan 24, 2016 Javier marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Oct 11, 2015 Lysergius rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A fascinating tale of great scientific achievement and ultimate descent into the irrational. From part of the team that invented the transistor to lone proponent of "dysgenics" this is the story of William Shockley. Just remember, it was not Fairchild or Intel that started silicon valley, but the Shockley Transistor Corp! How's that for irony?
Pendred Noyce
Jan 05, 2012 Pendred Noyce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A readable, balanced biography that weighs Shockley's considerable and patriotic contributions early in life against the stubborn and racist obsessions of his disappointed later years.
Nick Black
Nov 05, 2010 Nick Black marked it as to-read
Shockley was kind of a nutcase, it seems. Check out I'm looking forward to this one.
Beau Smith
Sep 07, 2010 Beau Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A simply amazing book on a genius and all his flaws. Great reading!
Mar 27, 2009 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
Fascinating cautionary tale of hubris unchecked.
Miuch marked it as to-read
Jul 21, 2016
Taylor Nguyen
Taylor Nguyen marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2016
Shelley Anne
Shelley Anne marked it as to-read
Jul 11, 2016
Raghu Chilukuri
Raghu Chilukuri marked it as to-read
Jun 28, 2016
Sushankar marked it as to-read
Jun 22, 2016
Anandkrishnanr is currently reading it
Jun 19, 2016
Soumyendu Ghosh
Soumyendu Ghosh marked it as to-read
Jun 11, 2016
Tsengel Ganbaatar
Tsengel Ganbaatar marked it as to-read
Jun 04, 2016
Fırat Ergül
Fırat Ergül marked it as to-read
May 22, 2016
Matthew marked it as to-read
May 16, 2016
Amar Pai
Amar Pai marked it as to-read
May 12, 2016
Alice marked it as to-read
May 10, 2016
Alexandre marked it as to-read
May 10, 2016
Connor Oswald
Connor Oswald marked it as to-read
May 09, 2016
Rene Schlegel
Rene Schlegel marked it as to-read
May 08, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking
  • Creating the 20th Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact
  • Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company
  • The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley
  • The Computer and the Brain
  • A Life of Contrasts: An Autobiography
  • The Hair Of The Dog: And Other Scientific Surprises
  • Molecules at an Exhibition: Portraits of Intriguing Materials in Everyday Life
  • The Children's Book of Heroes
  • A Guide to the Elements
  • The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria
  • Andrew Jackson (The American Presidents, #7)
  • The Foundation: A Great American Secret: How Private Wealth is Changing the World
  • The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire
  • The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of Our Electrified World
  • George W. Hamilton, USMC: America's Greatest World War I Hero
  • Weather for Dummies
  • The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business

Share This Book