An inventor, a founder, a mentor and an engineer; Robert Norton Noyce was nicknamed as the “Mayor of Silicon Valley”. Alongside Jack Kilby, he was the co-inventor of the groundbreaking technology that led to the invention of the integrated circuit or the microchip. As an entrepreneur, Robert Noyce co-founded Intel Corporation, a company worth $263.1 billion today, and Fairchild Semiconductor. He had a doctorate degree in Physical Electronics from MIT, and a net worth of $3.7 Billion. At the time of his death, Dr Noyce was the President and Chief executive of Sematech.
In his last interview, Dr Noyce was asked what he would do if he were the “emperor” of the United States. His reply was “among other things, make sure we are preparing our next generation to flourish in a high-tech age. And, that means the education of the lowest and the poorest, as well as at the graduate school level.”
Born: December 12, 1927
Died: June 3, 1990
His humongous achievements cannot be covered in a single article, so the best endeavour we have tried to list out some lesser-known, yet interesting, facts about Robert Noyce.
- He possessed creativeness from his childhood; when he was 12, he built a boy-sized aircraft with the help of his brother Gaylord. Later he built a radio from scratch and motorised his sled by welding a propeller and engine from an old washing machine to the back of it. His scrapbook was filled with Popular Science plans for constructing various ship models etc.
- Apart from possessing a splendid brain, Noyce was gifted in many areas that included diving and acting. His intellect and quick decision-making ability earned him the name ‘Rapid Robert’ from his friends. To many, he seemed to possess the halo effect.
- As his family was not financially well off, he sold newspapers, worked at a flower shop and post office to fund his education at Grinnell College. These jobs were his primary source of expenditure.
- Once due to his bawdy behaviour, he landed in the soup: he and one of his mates downed a few drinks and set off to steal the pig for the luau festival. After they had been caught, the mayor sent a letter to his family stating that stealing a farm animal is a felony which carries a minimum penalty of a year in prison and a fine of one thousand dollars. However, just because he was a brilliant student his physics teacher and the President of the college were able to compromise with the mayor and he managed to get away with a suspension for only one semester.
- He graduated from Grinnell College in 1949 with a double major in Mathematics and Physics. He tried to join the Air Force but was forced to opt out because of his colourblindness.
- By 1953, he had received a job offer from IBM, but he chose Philco, a Philadelphia-based company known for manufacturing radios and televisions. After making transistors for Philco for more than two years, around 1956 he was contacted by William Shockley, one of the inventors of state-of-the-art transistor technology. He wanted Noyce to work for his company Shockley Semiconductors.
- As it was most likely to happen, Shockley’s and Noyce’s scientific visions and egos clashed over the poor quality of management of the former. Due to this seven young researchers left the company along with Dr Noyce and they chose Noyce as their leader. They were called the ‘traitorous eight’, and together they found Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957. The company was a success with several inventions to its name, including Integrated Circuits or Integrated Chips. It was a chip of silicon that had many transistors etched into it all at once. By 1968 he became a millionaire.
- In 1968 he left Fairchild with Gordon E. Moore and together they found Intel Corporation. At Intel, he oversaw Ted Hoff’s invention of the Microprocessor. The invention of the microprocessor was a huge advancement of technology and this marked his second revolution.
- Noyce is credited with setting the work culture of Silicon Valley. When he was a manager, he promoted the casual working environment. His managerial style was named ‘Roll up the sleeve style’ that gave enough room to the employees to accomplish what they desired to.
- Robert Noyce has 17 patents on semiconductor devices. Noyce has been honoured with several awards. He got the ‘Stuart Ballantine Medal’ from the Franklin Institute in 1966 and National Medal of Science in 1979. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1987 and Charles Stark Draper Award in 1990 for his ‘integrated circuit’. Noyce was welcomed into the Business Hall of Fame in 1989 by George W. Bush.
The post is a part of a B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayor, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian Assange, Sir Richard Branson, Sergey Brin by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.