Friday, July 22, 2011

Kary Mullis, John Bardeen, and the Invention of the Transistor

Kary Mullis, the chemist who won a Noble in 1993 for inventing PCR (it made the Human Genome Project possible), has a fun paper available at his site called: "Conversation With John Bardeen." Bardeen was the guy who invented the transistor, for which he was awarded the Noble Prize in physics back in 1956. (He actually won a second Noble during the early 70s for his theories on super-conductivity.) If you know anything about Mullis, he's interested in just about everything. One day in 1987, Mullis was reading about Bardeen when he realized that he was still alive and living in Carbondale, Illinois. He says the following:
On a long shot, I called Carbondale information for his number. It was listed. The phone number of the father of the Electronic Age was listed. The manager of our local Circuit City has an unlisted number. John Bardeen's wife answered and said "Yes, he's sitting here at the table", and put him on the phone without asking who was calling. I told him I wanted to talk to him about the invention of the transistor, was it a convenient time? Was he in a comfortable chair? He said fine, so we talked for about an hour. He never asked me who I was or why I wanted to talk.
I guess his paper won't interest just a whole lot of people, but I thought it was nice. You can read it here: Conversation With John Bardeen

You can also see a short documentary on Bardeen here:

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