About Nick Holonyak
Nick Holonyak is professor of engineering at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1950 and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, both from the University of Illinois. He was one of the first graduate students to work in John Bardeen's semiconductor laboratory when it began work in 1952. After completing his work at the University of Illinois, including two years in Bardeen's laboratory, Holonyak went on to work at Bell Laboratories with John Moll, where he and Moll made the first diffused silicon transistors and switches, metaleized silicon, and generally developed the technology behind the rise of Silicon Valley and today's chips. Before returning to the University of Illinois as a professor, Holonyak also served in the Army and worked at GE.
Roughly the first half of the interview centers on an article Holonyak and Moll have in progress, which aims to distinguish between the contributions made by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain and those made by William Shockley in the discovery of the bipolar transistor. Holonyak states that Bardeen and Brattain made the relevant experiments and that the original bipolar transistor patent is in Bardeen and Brattain's name. Shockley's particular application of injection was original to Shockley; but Holonyak argues that Shockley applied ideas originally developed by Bardeen and Brattain. Holonyak's primary concern is to give credit where it was due, and to demonstrate that specific people make specific contributions to projects; Holonyak indicates that he wants to teach his students and others that people, not environments, create ideas. The MSS. that Holonyak refers to throughout this section of the interview is a manuscript he submitted to Physics Today but whichwas published in Physics Today without the material on Shockley. Holonyak considers the MSS. to be a work-in-progress still, one he has jointly produced with John Moll. The second half of the interview focuses on Holonyak's immigrant background, his early education at Edwardsville High School, his academic career at the University of Illinois, and the work he did with Bardeen at Bardeen's semiconductor laboratory and the work he did with John Moll at Bell Laboratories. He mentions briefly his work with the Army and describes in more detail the work he did at GE, including work with the controlled rectifier and with red LED. The interview concludes with Holonyak speaking warmly of his students' progress and achievements. He declares that much work remains to be done in the field of electronics and hopes that young engineers will continue that work.
About the Interview
NICK HOLONYAK: An Interview Conducted by Frederik Nebeker, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, 22 June 1993
Interview #166 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Nick Holonyak, an oral history conducted in 1993 by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
INTERVIEWEE: Nick Holonyak
INTERVIEWER: Frederik Nebeker
PLACE: University of Illinois
DATE: 22 June 1993