Walter L. Brown
Researcher at Bell Telephone Laboratories
Walter L. Brown was born into physics, his father being a professor at the University of Virginia. The family trade seemed an obvious choice, and thus, after a stint in the Navy’s V-12 program, he enrolled in the physics department of Harvard University, where he completed his PhD under the purview of Nobel Laureate Ed Purcell.
Without so much as a season of rest, Brown joined Bell Labs with the diploma yet to be framed and mounted. His early work was dedicated to measuring the conductivity of crystallized Germanium, a semi-conductor of choice at the time. Brown made pioneering observations of the field effect of surface conductance and the inversion layers at the surface of a semiconductor, and the relation of these properties to the chemical environment of the surface. This research was significant to the subsequent development of silicon based devises.
Later in the 1950s, Brown helped Bell Labs develop a research program in nuclear power, and then contributed to important work on the interaction of ion beams with solids, a technology which significantly advanced the industrial production of silicon semiconductors.