The Draper Prize

1989 Winners: Jack S. Kilby and Robert N. Noyce

For their independent development of the monolithic integrated circuit.


A pioneer in microelectronics, Jack Kilby invented the first monolithic integrated circuit (IC) and demonstrated it in September 1958. However, he was a modest genius, quick to point out that Fairchild scientist Robert Noyce designed an integrated circuit that was easier to manufacture. Today, Kilby and Noyce are considered co-inventors.

Kilby made his breakthrough while working at Texas Instruments (TI). His IC, fabricated on a single piece of semiconductor material half the size of a paper clip, would soon revolutionize the electronics world. By 1960, Texas Instruments was developing its first chips for customer evaluation, and two years later, it won a major integrated circuit contract for the Minuteman missile.

Kilby held several engineering management positions at TI and became a vice president at the company before retiring in 1986. But he was principally an engineer and inventor. He held more than 60 patents and was a co-inventor of the handheld electronic calculator and thermal printer.

A recipient of the Draper Prize in 1989, Kilby was also awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000 and the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology in 1993. He died in 2005.

Robert Noyce cofounded two companies that have shaped today's computer industry and Silicon Valley: Intel Corporation in 1968 and the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation in 1957.

While at Fairchild, Noyce realized a whole circuit could be built on a single chip; he was the first to be awarded a patent for an integrated circuit in April 1961. During his career, Noyce was awarded 16 patents for semiconductor devices, methods, and structures.

Noyce served as research director, vice president and general manager at Fairchild, eventually leaving with Gordon Moore to found Intel. At Intel, he oversaw Ted Hoff's invention of the microprocessor -- another revolution in computing. Noyce served as president of Intel until 1975 and as chairman of the board from 1975 to 1979.

Noyce received his B.A. in physics from Grinnell College in 1949 and earned a Ph.D. in physical electronics from MIT in 1953. The transistor industry was emerging while he was in college and one of his first jobs involved making transistors for the electronics firm Philco. He went on to work at Shockley Semiconductor before starting up Fairchild.

Integrated Circuit

No single invention has played as great a role in the development of modern computers as that of the monolithic integrated circuit, or microchip. Before the microchip, computers were made from many separate components either vacuum tubes or transistors that each carried out one logic function. Because these components were large and had to be hand-soldered to one another, they made computers bulky, expensive, and often unreliable. Furthermore, because the components had to be placed relatively far apart, this arrangement limited how fast a computer could run. Integrated circuits solved all of these problems. Instead of having components made separately and soldered together, a single integrated circuit features many transistors, plus the connections between them, all manufactured at once on a single wafer of silicon. The results have been generations of computers that are ever smaller, faster, and cheaper.