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High-reliability transistor, for submarine repeaters - a Connected Earth artefact, now in the Science Museum collection Shockley, William (1910-1989)

William Shockley was one of the co-inventors of the transistor, which earned him the Nobel prize in 1956.

Shockley had been interested in physics since he was a boy, and studied it at college, successfully graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in 1936.

He went straight to Bell Laboratories to develop electronic improvements to the telephone exchange and during the Second World War he helped refine radar.

Shockley moved into radio development when the war ended, and joined forces with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain to develop the first transistor in 1947. This revolutionised the way radios worked, making them smaller, lighter and cheaper.

In 1955, Shockley quit Bell Labs to act as a consultant and visiting professor, and also set up his own research centre. He thought a great deal about the teaching process and how scientific thought could be improved, but arrived at some very controversial right-wing opinions. His contribution to science is, however, undeniable.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...