Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Morris Tanenbaum, RIP

James R. Hagerty:

Dr. Tanenbaum, a chemist who worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories, the research arm of American Telephone & Telegraph Co., saw a chance to dash back to work to test his latest ideas about how to make better semiconductor devices out of silicon.

He tried a new way of connecting an aluminum wire to a silicon chip. He was thrilled when it worked, providing a way to make highly efficient transistors and other electronic devices, an essential technology for the Information Age.


Dr. Tanenbaum’s pioneering work in the mid-1950s demonstrated that silicon was a better semiconductor material for transistors than germanium, the early favorite.


“Bell Laboratories, the world’s premier industrial laboratory, was destroyed [following the 1982 antitrust settlement], a major national and global tragedy,” he wrote later in an unpublished memoir written for his family.

Amanda Davis (Hacker News):

Tanenbaum later developed the first gas-diffused silicon transistor, which could amplify and switch signals above 100 megahertz at a switching speed 10 times that of previous silicon transistors.

Despite Tanenbaum’s early work on silicon transistors, AT&T did not support further research or advancement of the technology.


Tanenbaum instead worked on other new technologies in the decades that followed. In 1962 he was named assistant director of Bell Labs’ metallurgical department. He led the team there that created the first high-field superconducting magnets, which are now used in MRI machines and other medical imaging technologies. Later he helped develop optical fiber and digital telephone switching.

Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

Leave a Comment