Spark of Genius: The Story of John Bardeen at the University of Illinois


IN 1972, JOHN BARDEEN, A PROFESSOR AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, BECAME THE FIRST PERSON TO WIN TWO NOBEL PRIZES IN PHYSICS. David Pines:
WOULD IT HAVE HAPPENED IF BARDEEN HAD GONE TO HARVARD, BERKELEY, PRINCETON?
I DOUBT IT. Anthony J. Leggett:
HE, NO DOUBT, ONE OF THE MOST DISTINGUISHED PHYSICISTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. Nick Holonyak:
THESE OTHER GUYS ARE COMPETING AND PLAYING PHYSICS WITH ONE ANOTHER. BARDEEN IS PLAYING
PHYSICS WITH GOD! (LAUGHING) JOHN BARDEEN’S PATH TO SCIENTIFIC GREATNESS
BEGAN AS THE GREAT WAR CAME TO AN END. AFTER WORLD WAR II, AMERICA WANTED TO HAVE
FUN. AMERICAN COMPANIES WERE EAGER TO PROVIDE THE
LUXURY ITEMS THAT EVERYONE WANTED TO BUY. THEIR PRODUCTION LINES STOPPED MAKING TANKS
AND STARTED MAKING CARS. ONE OF THE COMPANIES THAT WAS BOOMING AFTER
THE WAR WAS AT & T, BUT THEY HAD A PROBLEM. THEIR COMPLEX SYSTEM OF TELEPHONE LINES CRISSCROSSING
THE COUNTRY WERE POWERED AND AMPLIFIED BY VACUUM TUBES.
VACUUM TUBES POWERED ALL ELECTRONICS. Richard Blahut: THE VACUUM TUBES WERE BIG,
BULKY, EXPENSIVE. THEY DIDN’T LAST A LONG TIME. THE VACUUM TUBE WORKED IN THE WAY SIMILAR
TO A LIGHT BULB. ALSO, LIKE THE LIGHT BULB, IT GENERATED A LOT OF HEAT, AND IT BURNED
OUT. BY 1945, AT & T’S VACUUM TUBES WERE REACHING
THEIR LIMIT. THE COMPANY NEEDED A NEW AMPLIFIER, SOMETHING REVOLUTIONARY. AT & T AND ITS BELL
LABS HIRED THE BEST MINDS IN SCIENCE TO FIND THE ANSWER.
ONE OF THESE MINDS WAS JOHN BARDEEN. Gordon Baym:
JOHN WAS COMPLETELY A GENIUS. HE WAS JUST SO SMART AND SO CAPABLE AND SO
IMAGINATIVE. Lillian Hoddeson: HE KNEW THAT HE WAS GIFTED. Bill Bardeen: I THINK MY FATHER IN SOME SENSE
HAD A GOOD SENSE OF WHEN TO ATTACK. Charles Slichter: HE WANTED TO BE THE GUY
WHO FOUND THE ANSWER TO THE BIG QUESTION. David Pines: I THINK, ARGUABLY, MORE THAN
ANY SCIENTIST ALIVE IN THE LATTER PART OF THE 20TH CENTURY, HE CHANGED OUR WORLD. AT BELL LABS ON DECEMBER 16, 1947, JOHN BARDEEN
AND WALTER BRATTAIN INVENTED THE POINT CONTACT TRANSISTOR.
IT SPARKED AN ELECTRONICS REVOLUTION. John Bardeen: WE KNEW WE WERE ON TO SOMETHING
VERY IMPORTANT. TRANSISTORS WOULD HAVE MANY APPLICATIONS. (archival footage from Bell Labs) YOU MAY
BE ABLE TO GET MUSIC WITH A FLICK OF YOUR WRIST FROM A SO-CALLED DICK TRACY RADIO.
AND WITH THE PORTABLE TELEVISION SET, YOU MAYBE ABLE TO ENJOY VIDEO ENTERTAINMENT ANYWHERE
YOU GO. Richard Blahut:
WHAT WE NOW HAVE TODAY THAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED ARE CELL PHONES, LAP TOP COMPUTERS, INTERNET,
HOME TELEVISIONS OF ALL KINDS, ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT IN THE HOSPITALS THAT WE ALL DEPEND
ON. ALL OF IT ABSOLUTELY DEPENDS ON THE TRANSISTOR. Julian Dibbel:
WITH THE TRANSISTOR, WE ARE ABLE TO DO THIS INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF PROCESSING AT GREAT DISTANCES,
TO THE POINT WHERE IT BECOMES MAGICAL. IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE, THAT COMPLETELY CHANGED
OUR RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD AROUND US. Nick Holonyak: WHO KNEW IT WOULD GET THIS
BIG? WHO KNEW? NOBODY. JOHN BARDEEN WAS BORN ON MAY 23, 1908, IN
MADISON, WISCONSIN. THE TEN POUND BOY WAS THE SECOND SON OF CHARLES AND ALTHEA BARDEEN.
CHARLES WAS THE DEAN OF THE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL SCHOOL, AND ALTHEA WAS A FORMER TEACHER FROM
THE PROGRESSIVE DEWEY SCHOOL IN CHICAGO. ALTHEA REALIZED HER YOUNG SON, JOHN, HAD A
TALENT FOR MATH. Lillian Hoddesson: HE HAD A TENDENCY TO GET
VERY BORED WHEN HE WASN’T CHALLENGED. SO HIS MOTHER KEPT SKIPPING HIM. Bill Bardeen: WHEN HE WAS TEN YEARS OLD, HE
WAS ABLE TO TAKE ALGEBRA. AT THE END OF THE COURSE, THEY HAD A COMPETITION, AND MY FATHER
WON THE COMPETITION. Lillian Hoddeson: THE FACT THAT JOHN WAS SO
MUCH YOUNGER THAN HIS CLASSMATES OBVIOUSLY AFFECTED HIM SOCIALLY. HE JUST DIDN’T FIT
IN. David Pines: HERE IS THIS TINY LITTLE KID
WITH ALL THESE TOWERING PEOPLE AROUND HIM, SMARTER THAN ANYONE ELSE IN HIS CLASS. SOMEWHERE
ALONG THE LINE, HE FIGURED OUT FOR HIMSELF, “OKAY, I AM GOING TO KEEP QUIET ABOUT THINGS
THAT I KNOW. MY PATH FORWARD IS NOT GOING TO BE ONE OF TELLING EVERYBODY AROUND ME HOW
SMART I AM.” THE BARDEEN FAMILY WAS DEVASTATED WHEN ALTHEA
DIED FROM BREAST CANCER IN 1920. JOHN WAS SHOCKED BY THE LOSS. Hoddeson: I THINK THE STRENGTH THAT HE DEVELOPED
MADE HIM MORE ABLE TO HAVE A TOUGHNESS THAT WAS NECESSARY, NOT ONLY TO SURVIVE IN THE
FIELD OF PHYSICS, BUT TO BECOME ONE OF THE LEADING PEOPLE. AFTER HIS MOTHER’S DEATH, JOHN STRUGGLED TO
KEEP UP HIS GRADES. BUT HE STILL MANAGED TO FINISH HIGH SCHOOL AT THE AGE OF 13. IN 1923, HE ENROLLED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF
WISCONSIN. Slichter: BUT JOHN WANTED TO JOIN A FRATERNITY,
AND ACTUALLY HE SAVED SOME MONEY UP. ONE OF THE THINGS HE DID WAS HE PLAYED POOL.
HE WAS AN EXPERT POOL PLAYER. Bill Bardeen: THERE WERE STORIES OF HIM HANGING
OUT WITH SOME OF THE SPORTS TEAMS. EVEN THOUGH HE WAS SO YOUNG, HE SEEMED TO BE ABLE TO GET
ALONG WITH PEOPLE WHO WERE OLDER. JOHN JOINED THE ZETA PSI FRATERNITY AND MADE
THE VARSITY SWIM TEAM. Hoddeson: SPORTS IN A WAY HELPED HIM TRAIN
TO BE A STRONGER PHYSICIST; TRY, TRY AGAIN PHILOSOPHY, AND PRACTICE AND PRACTICE AND
PRACTICE, AND BUILD-UP MASTERY. JUST AS THE COUNTRY WAS SLIDING INTO THE GREAT
DEPRESSION, BARDEEN GRADUATED WITH A MASTER’S IN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING. HE WAS LUCKY TO
BE OFFERED A POSITION WITH THE GULF OIL COMPANY. AFTER THREE YEARS AT GULF, BARDEEN WENT BACK
TO SCHOOL AT PRINCETON. HE HOPED TO STUDY WITH ALBERT EINSTEIN, BUT EINSTEIN DID NOT
WORK WITH STUDENTS. BARDEEN BECAME CLOSE FRIENDS WITH FELLOW PHYSICS
STUDENT, FRED SEITZ. SEITZ WAS WORKING WITH HIS ADVISOR EUGENE WIGNER ON GROUND BREAKING
RESEARCH INTO MATERIALS KNOWN AS SEMICONDUCTORS. THEY COULD BOTH CONDUCT AND RESIST THE FLOW
OF ELECTRICITY DEPENDING ON THEIR CONDITION. AFTER A FIVE YEAR COURTSHIP, JOHN MARRIED
BIOLOGIST AND TEACHER JANE MAXWELL ON JULY 18, 1938. Pines: JANE WAS COMPLETELY THE RIGHT KIND
OF WIFE FOR JOHN. HE HAD KNOWN THIS FOR SOME TIME.
HE JUST DID NOT ASK HER TO MARRY HIM UNTIL HE HAD A JOB. Bill Bardeen: IN MANY WAYS, SHE HELPED HIM
BECOME THE SCIENTIST HE WAS. IN THE NEXT DECADE, BARDEEN WOULD INVENT A
DEVICE THAT WOULD CHANGE THE WORLD AND BREAK APART A FRIENDSHIP. IN 1938, JOHN AND JANE BARDEEN SETTLED INTO
A PEACEFUL ACADEMIC LIFE AS JOHN TAUGHT PHYSICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA. BUT CHANGES
LOOMED ON THE GLOBAL LANDSCAPE. HITLER ROSE TO POWER IN GERMANY AND OVERRAN
POLAND IN 1939. IT WAS A SIGNAL TO MANY COUNTRIES TO PREPARE FOR WAR. WASHINGTON ASKED SCIENTISTS TO SERVE IN THE
ARMED FORCES, AND BARDEEN HEARD THE CALL. ONE OF THE MANY TECHNOLOGICAL IMPROVEMENTS
SCIENTISTS MADE FOR THE ALLIED FORCES WAS ADVANCED RADAR.
THEY CREATED A FAR REACHING RADAR THAT COULD SEE ENEMY PLANES AND SHIPS EVEN AT NIGHT.
THE NEW RADARS USED A CRYSTAL DIODE USING THE MATERIALS SILICON OR GERMANIUM. A DIODE
ONLY ALLOWS ELECTRICITY TO FLOW ONE WAY. THE CRYSTAL DIODE IN THE RADAR CONVERTED THE RADIO
WAVES OF THE RADAR SIGNAL INTO SOMETHING THAT COULD BE SEEN ON A SCOPE. Slichter: PEOPLE HAD AN IDEA THAT ONE MIGHT
BE ABLE TO REPLACE VACUUM TUBES WITH SOMETHING MADE FROM THE MATERIALS THAT MADE THESE CRYSTAL
DIODES. ONE COMPANY THAT DESPERATELY WANTED TO REPLACE
VACUUM TUBES WAS A T & T. AT & T’S RESEARCH FACILITY, BELL LABS, ASKED WILLIAM SHOCKLEY
TO START A NEW SOLID STATE RESEARCH DEPARTMENT. THE GOAL OF THE GROUP WAS FIND A NEW AMPLIFIER
AND SWITCH FOR TELEPHONE LINES. AT THE END OF THE WAR, BARDEEN ACCEPTED A
LUCRATIVE OFFER FROM BELL LABS. HE WAS HIRED TO WORK WITH WILLIAM SHOCKLEY AND AN EXPERIMENTAL
PHYSICIST NAMED WALTER BRATTAIN. Nick Holonyak: WALTER WAS HANDY IN SETTING
UP THINGS AND WAS A CONSIDERABLE EXPERIMENTALIST. BUT WITH BARDEEN AROUND, WITH WITH HIS POWER
OF THINKING AND ANALYZING AND UNDERSTANDING THE DATA, WALTER WAS A GREAT EXPERIMENTALIST. WILLIAM SHOCKLEY BELIEVED THEY COULD MAKE
AN AMPLIFIER BY USING A NOTION CALLED THE FIELD EFFECT.
SHOCKLEY THEORIZED THAT AN ELECTRICAL FIELD ERECTED PERPENDICULAR NEAR TO BUT INSULATED
FROM THE SURFACE OF A SLAB OF SILICON SHOULD DRAW ELECTRONS OUT OF THE SEMI-CONDUCTOR MATERIAL
AND CREATE A PATH OF CURRENT. BUT THE EXPERIMENT DIDN’T WORK. STUMPED, SHOCKLEY ASKED BARDEEN TO TRY AND
FIGURE OUT WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THIS FIELD EFFECT DESIGN.
BARDEEN SOON HAD THE ANSWER, STATES AT THE SURFACE OF THE SEMI-CONDUCTOR WERE TRAPPING
THE ELECTRONS, PREVENTING THEM FROM FORMING THE PATH OF CURRENT. Hoddeson: BY THIS POINT, SHOCKLEY LOST INTEREST
AND LET THEM WORK BY THEMSELVES. SO HE WASN’T IN THERE.
I MEAN HE WOULD BE AROUND TO TALK ABOUT THINGS AND HAVE MEETINGS AND SO FORTH, BUT HE WASN’T
IN THE LAB. USING BARDEEN’S THEORY OF SURFACE STATES,
BRATTAIN AND BARDEEN STRUGGLED ON THE LAB FOR MONTHS TO BUILD A FIELD EFFECT AMPLIFIER.
THEY HAD LIMITED SUCCESS WHEN THEY REPLACED THE SILICON WITH A SPECIAL KIND OF GERMANIUM.
THEY ALSO TRIED VARIOUS LIQUIDS AS THE INSULATOR ON THE SURFACE OF THE GERMANIUM. EVENTUALLY THEY TRIED A THIN OXIDE LAYER THAT
BARDEEN SAW GROWING ON THE SEMICONDUCTOR SURFACE. IN ONE EXPERIMENT, BRATTAIN ACCIDENTALLY WASHED
THE INSULATOR AWAY. SO THE ELECTRICAL CONDUCTOR WAS IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE GERMANIUM.
THE ACCIDENTAL CONTACT ALLOWED THE INJECTION OF POSITIVE CHARGE CARRIERS KNOWN AS HOLES
TO ENTER THE GERMANIUM AND MODULATE THE CURRENT. BARDEEN AND BRATTAIN COULD NOW DESIGN AN IMPROVED
VERSION OF THE DEVICE. BRATTAIN COVERED A SMALL INVERTED PLASTIC TRIANGLE WITH GOLD
FOIL, THEN CUT A RAZOR THIN SLIT IN THE BOTTOM. THE TRIANGLE WITH THE ATTACHED TWO LINES OF
FOIL WAS PRESSED INTO THE GERMANIUM SLAB AND CARRIED AN ELECTRICAL CURRENT. Nick Holonayk: IF I PUT SOME CURRENT IN HERE
AND GET ALMOST ALL OF THAT OUT OVER HERE, AND I PUT IT IN LOW VOLTAGE HERE AND TOOK
IT OUT AT HIGH VOLTAGE HERE, I HAD AN AMPLIFIER. AND THAT’S THE POINT CONTACT TRANSISTOR, AND
THAT’S THE BIG BREAKTHROUGH DECEMBER 16, 1947. AFTER THAT, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE. Blahut: THE TRANSISTOR IS VERY SMALL, VERY
CHEAP. AT THAT TIME ONE COULD FORESEE THAT VERY COMPLICATED
DEVICES COULD BE MADE OUT OF THE TRANSISTOR. John Bardeen: CERTAINLY A VERY EXCITING DAY,
THE FACT YOU CAN CHANGE THE CONDUCTIVITY OF A SEMICONDUCTOR BY CURRENT FLOW…HAD IT HOOKED
UP SO YOU COULD AMPLIFY VOICE AND REALLY SHOW WHAT IT COULD DO. IT IS REALLY A VERY EXCITING
DAY. Pines: JOHN REALIZED WHAT WAS HAPPENING, REALIZED
ITS POTENTIAL RIGHT AWAY. WENT HOME QUITE EXCITED FOR JOHN, TOLD HIS WIFE THAT SOMETHING
INTERESTING HAPPENED AT THE LAB TODAY. SHE IS FOCUSED ON GETTING DINNER ON THE TABLE
FOR THE FAMILY. SHE SAID ‘JOHN, COULD YOU WAIT AND TELL ME ABOUT IT LATER. I REALLY
HAVE TO GET DINNER READY.’ HER MOMENT PASSED. BARDEEN GOT A DIFFERENT REACTION WHEN HE SHARED
THE GOOD NEWS WITH SHOCKLEY. HE WAS STUNNED. Pines: I THINK HE WAS ENORMOUSLY FRUSTRATED
BY THE FACT THAT BARDEEN AND BRATTAIN HAD FOUND THIS ON THEIR OWN WITHOUT ANY DIRECT
INVOLVEMENT OF SHOCKLEY. BUT HE ALSO TOOK OVER IN SAYING TO BARDEEN “I WANT YOU ONLY
TO WORK ON A AND B, AND KEEP YOUR COTTON PICKING HANDS OFF C, D, AND E. THAT’S MY TERRITORY”. Holonyak: JOHN’S PERSONALITY WAS SUCH THAT
HE WAS NOT GIVEN TO ARGUMENT. HE WAS A DEEP THINKER, AND HE WAS METICULOUS THINKER AND
ALL THAT, BUT HE WASN’T A QUICK TONGUE GUY. JOHN WOULD SIT THERE AND NOT SAY ANYTHING. Hoddeson: HE WAS VERY, VERY, VERY ANGRY, BUT
THE ANGER WAS MOSTLY BOTTLED UP. BARDEEN MADE A DECISION TO LEAVE BELL LABS.
HE ASKED HIS FRIEND, FRED SEITZ IF HE KNEW OF ANY JOBS IN ACADEMIA. SEITZ WAS A PHYSICS
PROFESSOR AT ILLINOIS. HE MADE A PROPOSAL TO THE DEAN OF THE COLLEGE
OF ENGINEERING, WILLIAM EVERITT. Holonyak: SEITZ WENT TO BILL EVERITT AND SAID
“WE HAVE A CHANCE NOW TO GET A REAL BIG GUY.” Hoddeson: FRED UNDERSTOOD HOW SMART BARDEEN
WAS BECAUSE HE HAD KNOWN HIM SINCE GRADUATE SCHOOL. Blahut: IT TOOK A VERY GOOD ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING
DEPARTMENT, VERY GOOD PHYSICS DEPARTMENT, AND MADE THEM ABSOLUTELY THE BEST IN THE WORLD. BARDEEN NEVER FORGOT THE WAY HE WAS TREATED
BY WILLIAM SHOCKLEY. YEARS LATER HE WAS SHOWING A COVER OF AN ELECTRONICS MAGAZINE TO NICK
HOLONYAK, AND IT REMINDED HIM OF HIS LAST YEARS AT BELL LABS. Holonyak: HE SAID, “BOY, WALTER HATES THIS
PICTURE.” AND I SAID “WHY, JOHN? NOT FLATTERING OR SOMETHING?”
HE LOOKED AT ME AND MADE A FACE, AND HIS HEAD WENT LIKE THIS, “NO.” HE SAYS, “THAT’S WALTER’S
EQUIPMENT AND OUR EXPERIMENT, AND BILL DIDN’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT.” DURING THE SUMMER OF 1951, JOHN BARDEEN MOVED
HIS WIFE AND THREE CHILDREN TO CHAMPAIGN, ILLINOIS. Hoddeson: THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT ILLINOIS
OFFERED HIM WAS A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY IN WHICH HE COULD SOLVE THE PROBLEMS THAT HE
SELECTED TO SOLVE. THE BARDEEN’S BOUGHT A HOUSE NEAR THE GOLF
COURSE FOR JOHN TO ENJOY HIS FAVORITE PASTIME. BARDEEN’S LOVE OF SPORTS EXTENDED TO FOOTBALL,
AND HE TOOK HIS FAMILY TO ALL THE HOME ILLINI GAMES. Bill Bardeen: WE WENT TO THE ROSE BOWL ONE
YEAR WHEN ILLINOIS WAS PLAYING. HE SPENT HOURS BEING CATCHER AS I WAS A LITTLE LEAGUE PITCHER
HELPING ME IMPROVE MY FAST BALL. SOMETIMES PEOPLE THINK “WELL, DID HE SIT YOU DOWN AND
TEACH YOU PHYSICS AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE WHEN YOU WERE FIVE YEARS OLD?” IT WASN’T THAT WAY
AT ALL. Pines: YOUR AVERAGE REALLY GREAT SCIENTIST
IS NOT AN ESPECIALLY SUCCESSFUL FATHER. JOHN WAS AN AMAZINGLY SUCCESSFUL FATHER. THE FALL OF 1951, BARDEEN LED A SEMINAR ON
THE TRANSISTOR. SITTING IN THE AUDIENCE WAS ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING GRADUATE STUDENT, NICK
HOLONYAK. BARDEEN USED A SMALL PLASTIC BOX TO DEMONSTRATE
HOW THE TRANSISTOR WORKED. WHEN HE TURNED IT ON, IT PLAYED THE TUNE “HOW
DRY I AM.” Holonyak: HE FLIPPED ON A SWITCH, AND THE
THING WAS ON INSTANTLY. SEE, EVERYTHING THAT WE KNOW ABOUT IN ELECTRONICS IS VACUUM TUBES,
YOU FLIP ON A SWITCH, AND YOU WAIT FOR EVERYTHING TO WARM UP.
I ALMOST FELL OUT OF THE CHAIR BECAUSE I KNOW HOW TO DO ELECTRONICS. I AM ALREADY A GRAD
STUDENT AND. I UNDERSTAND THIS STUFF, AND NOTHING WORKS
LIKE THAT. UH-OH, I KNOW THIS IS DIFFERENT.
I COULD SEE RIGHT AWAY THAT THIS MAN PLAYS A DIFFERENT GAME. WHEN HOLONYAK LEARNED BARDEEN WAS GOING TO
SET UP A SEMICONDUCTOR LABORATORY, HE RUSHED TO JOIN THE GROUP.
SOME OF HIS FELLOW GRADUATE STUDENTS LAUGHED AT THE IDEA. Holonyak: YOU ARE NUTS. THAT’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE.
WELL, OF COURSE, THE JOKE NOW IS ON THEM. AT ILLINOIS, JOHN WANTED TO TACKLE A PROBLEM
THAT HAD DOGGED HIM SINCE GRADUATE SCHOOL. HE WANTED TO SOLVE THE MYSTERY OF SUPERCONDUCTIVITY. Slichter: IF YOU GOT CERTAIN METALS LIKE LEAD
OR TIN, VERY COLD, DOWN NEAR THE ABSOLUTE ZERO, THAT IF YOU STARTED THE ELECTRIC CURRENT
FLOWING IN A WIRE, THAT THE CURRENT WOULD KEEP ON GOING EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE A BATTERY.
SO IT WAS LIKE A PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE. HE WAS CHALLENGED BY THAT THING, AND IT WAS
A CHALLENGE AGAINST HIM. Leggett: IT HAD BEEN RECOGNIZED FROM THE VERY
START AS A KEY MYSTERY OF CONDENSED Matter PHYSICS.
JUST ABOUT EVERYONE WHO HAD ANY KIND OF REPUTATION IN NOT JUST condensed matter PHYSICS, BUT
PHYSICS in GENERAL HAD A SHOT at EXPLAINING SUPERCONDUCTIVITY. BARDEEN’S THOUGHTS WERE TAKEN AWAY FROM SUPERCONDUCTIVITY
WHEN HE HEARD THE NEWS ON THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 1, 1956.
HE DROPPED A FRYING PAN OF EGGS WHEN HE LEARNED HE HAD WON THE NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS. BARDEEN, BRATTAIN AND SHOCKLEY WON FOR THE
INVENTION OF THE TRANSISTOR. WHEN BARDEEN RETURNED FROM STOCKHOLM, HE ACHIEVED
ANOTHER LIFELONG GOAL, A HOLE-IN-ONE. YEARS LATER, CHARLES SLICHTER WAS AMAZED TO LEARN
THAT SOME OF BARDEEN’S GOLFING BUDDIES DID NOT KNOW HE HAD WON A NOBEL PRIZE. TRUE TO
FORM, BARDEEN DID NOT BRAG ON THE COURSE. Slichter: MY FEELING WAS THAT SOMEHOW OR ANOTHER,
IF I HAD WON A NOBEL PRIZE, I WOULD MANAGE TO GET IT IN THE CONVERSATION SOMEHOW. IN THE NEXT THREE MONTHS, BARDEEN’S GOOD LUCK
STREAK CONTINUED. HE ANNOUNCED HE, ALONG WITH ROBERT SCHRIEFFER
AND LEON COOPER, HAD SOLVED A 45 YEAR OLD MYSTERY THAT PUZZLED THE GREATEST MINDS IN
SCIENCE. Break 3 BARDEEN WAS EAGER TO GET BACK TO WORK AT ILLINOIS
AFTER WINNING THE 1956 NOBEL PRIZE. HE FELT HIS TEAM WAS CLOSE TO AN ANSWER ABOUT
THE MYSTERY OF SUPERCONDUCTIVITY. Bill Bardeen: WHEN THEY LEARNED A LOT ABOUT
WHAT WAS GOING ON, BUT HADN’T QUITE PUT ALL THE PIECES TOGETHER, MY FATHER HAD A COCKTAIL
PARTY FOR SOME VISITING RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS. MY FATHER SEEMED TO BE STARING OFF INTO SPACE
EVERY SO OFTEN AND DIDN’T SAY VERY MUCH. YOU COULD TELL THAT MY FATHER’S MENTAL WHEELS
WERE TURNING. SATURDAY MORNING, I THINK SCHRIEFFER GOT A CALL RATHER EARLY IN THE MORNING SAYING
“I THINK I HAVE SOLVED IT.” BARDEEN RAN INTO CHARLES SLICHTER IN THE HALLWAY
OF THE PHYSICS BUILDING. Slichter: I WAITED FOR HIM TO SAY WHAT IT
WAS HE WAS PLANNING, AND HE FINALLY SAID “WELL, I THINK WE HAVE FIGURED OUT SUPERCONDUCTIVITY.”
THAT WAS, I SUPPOSE, ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING TIMES, EVENTS IN MY WHOLE SCIENTIFIC LIFE. BARDEEN SHARED THE CREDIT WITH DOCTORAL STUDENT,
BOB SCHRIEFFER, AND HIS POST-DOC, LEON COOPER. IT BECAME KNOWN AS “BCS.” Slichter: IT IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
THEORETICAL DEVELOPMENTS OF THE PREVIOUS CENTURY. THERE IS NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. FOR THE FIRST TIME, SCIENTISTS UNDERSTOOD
ON A MICROSCOPIC LEVEL HOW MATERIAL BECAME A SUPER CONDUCTOR. Pines: WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE IS TO BE ABLE TO
MAKE A POWER LINE OUT OF SUPER CONDUCTING WIRES. Slichter: YOU WOULDN’T WASTE ANY OF THE ENERGY
TRYING TO GET THE ELECTRICITY FROM THE PLACE WHERE YOU GENERATE IT TO THE PLACE WHERE YOU
USE IT. ON OCTOBER 19, 1972, BARDEEN LEARNED HE HAD
BECOME the FIRST PERSON TO WIN A SECOND NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS.
BARDEEN, COOPER AND SCHRIEFFER WON FOR THEIR THEORY OF SUPERCONDUCTIVITY. Baym: Leo Kadenoff SENT A WONDERFUL NOTE SAYING
ON THE SECOND PRIZE “CONGRATULATIONS, JOHN. WITH WITH THE THIRD, YOU GET TO KEEP THE KING.” Bill Bardeen: 1956, THE KING ASKED MY MOTHER,
“WELL, WHERE IS THE FAMILY?” AND SHE SAID “WELL, THEY ARE AT HOME IN SCHOOL.” HE SAID,
“WELL NEXT TIME BRING THEM.” BARDEEN RETURNED TO ILLINOIS AND CONTINUED
TEACHING UNTIL MARCH OF 1975. IN HIS RETIREMENT, HE CONTINUED TO BE A LEADER IN SCIENCE BY
SERVING AS AN ADVISOR TO THE YOUNG HAILOID COMPANY WHICH BECAME XEROX.
HE WAS ALSO CLOSE TO THE SONY CORPORATION AND MADE MANY TRIPS TO JAPAN.
JOHN BARDEEN PASSED AWAY ON JANUARY 30, 1991. Baym: JOHN WAS FULFILLED, BUT CERTAINLY JOHN
WAS STILL DRIVEN. HE WAS after NOBEL PRIZE NUMBER THREE. I THINK
HE WAS ONE OF THE GREAT SCIENTISTS OF ALL TIME. Blahut: JOHN BARDEEN DID A LOT FOR THE WORLD.
HE DID A LOT FOR CIVILIZATION. HE DID A LOT FOR THE FUTURE. Holonyak: AND HE WASN’T THERE TRYING TO MAKE
THE WORLD BETTER FOR BARDEEN. HE WAS TRYING TO MAKE THE WORLD BETTER BECAUSE WE HAVE TO. Slichter: HE WASN’T JUST A SCIENTIST. HE WAS
TRULY A GREAT HUMAN BEING.

21 Replies to “Spark of Genius: The Story of John Bardeen at the University of Illinois”

  1. The principle of transistor is already exist at 1930 or so, it is not John Bardeen invention. Packard Bell lab then develop it. You can read the story at robert adams website aethmogen com, transistor enigma.

  2. @cuneapensanjeevi up to you. Read the story of Thomas Henry Moray, he demostrated the first transistor, made of two crystal attached together at 1930. Two of bell transistor "inventor" happen to watch the demo too.

  3. Big Ten Network? I always wondered what they did without football or basketball. That's almost as strange as espn doing something on BCS theory.

  4. hmm ever seen the germanium vacuum tube by Henry moray ….his patenet resemble this device . he was refused his patent not having an explanation for how it all worked he collected sample germanium on usm tour he was a electrical engineer working on raiant energy science he used the germanium in a system of his design … collecting up to 50kv of power tuning into the correct signials and some how amplifying the signals to ac current .. he showed it to many over while he was trying to collect funds to investigate how it was all working so to better understand how to replicate this situation. Russians ultimately destroy his proto type with a hammer smashing to pieces they tried to get him to sell the secrete.. his assistant was a Russian spy i guess when they decided he would not give it up to them they destroyed it he could never recreate this system but it was inspected by top science and congressmen they took it apart and studied it all coming to the conclusion this maybe the greatest discovery ever
    even if not understood yet .. his description of the effects of germanium seem to be pretty close to what we understand today a bought it.. amplifies a signal when struck with radiation it turns it into ac they made radiation detectors out of it…. so does this mean if i take geranium lay it on uranium it will convert the radiation into ac current………..hmmmm if i make an antenna and tune it correctly run the signal of a certain type i can amp the power running it through gemaniummm.

  5. This is a fake and lie History Record in Wikipedia and other Lexicons.
    A Audio CD Player can not work without a Transistor.
    The Transistor was introduced 1994 with the first Audio Disk Player to the public market.
    And before we used Analog Audio Cassette Tape Player and Recorder and Vynl.
    The Audio Disc Player replaced Audio Tape Recorder 1994.

    The Digital Optical Data Carrier CD, DVD, Blu Ray is a Quantum Physical Process.

    The Transistor became standard in the Electronic Industrial World 1994 and not before.
    The Transistor is a Multipurpose Electronic Device.
    It replaced the Vacuum Tube.
    The transistor is a contact less switch.
    The Transistor the Diode, the LED-Diode and Integrated Circuits are Semiconductors.
    The Semiconductor Industry started 1994 and not before 1993.
    There was no Silicon Valley before 1994.

    It mad the first Transistor Computer Processor possible.
    The ENIAC (Electronic Numeric Integrator and Calculator) was running with Vacuum Tubes in World War 2.
    It was developed by the US Army and Nazi Germany Between 1932 to 1945.

    I am a Scientist of the Quantum Physical scientific experiment to invent the Audio Disk and the Transistor in Austria Vienna home of Beethoven Mozart and Johann Strauss. (1986 to 1994)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *