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

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  45 ratings  ·  14 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)
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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
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
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.
[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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
A simply amazing book on a genius and all his flaws. Great reading!
Fascinating cautionary tale of hubris unchecked.
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