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Robert Noyce
Born December 12, 1927(1927-12-12)
Burlington, Iowa
Died June 3, 1990 (aged 62)
Austin, Texas
Alma mater Grinnell College
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Occupation Co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Bottomley
Ann Bowers
Children William B. Noyce
Pendred Noyce
Priscilla Noyce
Margaret Noyce
Parents Ralph Brewster Noyce
Harriet May Norton

Robert Norton Noyce (December 12, 1927 – June 3, 1990), nicknamed "the Mayor of Silicon Valley", co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel in 1968. He is also credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the invention of the integrated circuit or microchip.[1] While Kilby's invention was six months earlier, neither man rejected the title of co-inventor. Noyce was also a mentor and father-figure to an entire generation of entrepreneurs, including Steve Jobs at Apple, Inc.[2]



Early life and ancestors

He was born in Burlington, Iowa, the youngest of four sons of the Rev. Ralph Brewster Noyce. His father was a 1915 graduate of Doane College; a 1920 graduate of Oberlin College, and a 1923 graduate of Chicago Theological Seminary. He was a clergyman and the associate superintendent of the Iowa Conference of Congregational Churches in the 1930s and 1940s.

His mother, Harriet May Norton, a 1921 graduate of Oberlin College, was the daughter of the Rev. Milton J. Norton, a Congregational clergyman, and Louise Hill. She has been described as a intelligent woman with a commanding will.[3]

He was a descendant of Governor William Bradford (1590-1657) of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower; Elder William Brewster (pilgrim), (c. 1567 - April 10, 1644), the Pilgrim leader and spiritual elder of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower; Martha Wadsworth Brewster (1710 - c. 1757) a notable 18th-century American poet and writer, and the Rev. Reuben Gaylord (1812 - 1880), Yale College 1834 & 1838, a clergyman and a founder of Grinnell College.[4]


He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in physics and mathematics from Grinnell College in 1949 and a Ph.D. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953. He studied the first transistors, developed at Bell Laboratories, in a Grinnell College classroom.

While a student at Grinnell College, Noyce along with a friend stole a twenty-five-pound-pig from a local farmer for a Hawaiian themed luau on the campus. The following morning, Noyce and his friend decided to go see the farmer, confess to stealing it, and pay for the pig. The farmer, however, saw no humor in the theft and refused reimbursement. Instead, he contacted the local sheriff and insisted on bringing criminal charges against them.

Without the intervention of Professor Grant O. Gale, there was only so much that Noyce could do. Gale had two difficult tasks: to keep Bob out of jail and out of court and to keep the college administration from expelling him. There was never any hope at all of a mere slap on the wrist. The compromise he helped work out was that Noyce would be suspended for one-semester. He was also impressed by the way Bob Noyce took the punishment and suspension.[3]


After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953, he took his first job as a research engineer at the Philco Corporation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He left in 1956 for the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in Mountain View, California.

He joined William Shockley at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, a division of Beckman Instruments, but left with the "Traitorous Eight"[5] in 1957, because of the poor management of the company, to create the influential Fairchild Semiconductor corporation. According to Sherman Fairchild, Noyce's impassioned presentation of his vision was the reason Sherman Fairchild had agreed to create the semiconductor division for the Traitorous Eight.[6]

Noyce and Gordon E. Moore (a chemist and physicist) founded Intel[7][8], in 1968 when they left Fairchild Semiconductor. The relaxed culture that Noyce brought to Intel was a carry-over from his style at Fairchild Semiconductor. He treated employees as family, rewarding and encouraging team work. His follow-your-bliss management style set the tone for many Valley success stories.

Noyce's management style could be called "roll up your sleeves." He shunned fancy corporate cars, reserved parking spaces, private jets, offices, and furnishings in favor of a less-structured, relaxed working environment in which everyone contributed and no one benefited from lavish perquisites. By declining the usual executive perks he stood as a model for future generations of Intel CEOs. At Intel, he oversaw Ted Hoff's invention of the microprocessor—that was his second revolution.

One-time Intel CEO Andy Grove on the other hand, believed in maximizing the productivity of his employees, and he and the company became known for his guiding motto: "Only the paranoid survive". He was notorious for his directness in finding fault and would question his colleagues so intensely as occasionally to border on intimidation.[9]

Grove considered Noyce to be a "nice guy" but ineffectual. Noyce was, in Grove's estimation, essentially anti-competitive. This difference in styles reputedly caused some degree of friction between Noyce and Grove.

Intel's headquarters building, the Robert Noyce Building, in Santa Clara, California is named in his honor, as is the Robert N. Noyce '49 Science Center, which houses the science division of Grinnell College.

In his last interview , Noyce was asked what he would do if he were “emperor” of the United States. He said that he would, among other things, “make sure we are preparing our next generation to flourish in a high-tech age. And that means education of the lowest and the poorest, as well as at the graduate school level.”


He married Elizabeth Bottomley[10] in 1953 and divorced in 1974. They had four children together. Later in 1974 Noyce married Ann Bowers. Bowers was the first Director of Personnel for Intel Corporation and the first Vice President of Human Resources for Apple Inc. She now serves as Chair of the Board and the founding trustee of the Noyce Foundation. Active all his life, Noyce enjoyed reading Hemingway, flying his own airplane, hang gliding, and scuba diving.

He believed that microelectronics would continue to advance in complexity and sophistication well beyond its current state, leading to the question of what use society would make of the technology.

Noyce died from heart failure on June 3, 1990 at the Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas.[11]

At the time of his death, he was the president and chief executive officer of Sematech Inc.,a non-profit consortium that performs basic research into semiconductor manufacturing. It was organized as a partnership between the United States government and 14 corporations in an attempt to help the American computer industry catch up with the Japanese in semiconductor manufacturing technology.

Awards and honors

In July, 1959, he filed for U.S. Patent 2,981,877 "Semiconductor Device and Lead Structure", a type of integrated circuit. This independent effort was recorded only a few months after the key findings of inventor Jack Kilby. For his co-invention of the integrated circuit and its world-transforming impact, three presidents of the United States honored him.

He would eventually accumulate sixteen patents to his name.

Noyce was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1978 "for his contributions to the silicon integrated circuit, a cornerstone of modern electronics."[12] In 1979, he was awarded the National Medal of Science. In 1990, the National Academy of Engineering awarded him its Draper Prize.

Mr. Noyce was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1989.


The Noyce Foundation was founded in 1991 by his family. The foundation is dedicated to improving public education in mathematics and science in grades K-12.

Robert Noyce was the subject of the piece "Two Young Men Who Went West" in Tom Wolfe's book Hooking Up, a collection of essays and short stories published in 2000.

Noyce patents

  • U.S. Patent 2,875,141 Method and apparatus for forming semiconductor structures, filed August 1954, issued February 1959, assigned to Philco Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 2,929,753 Transistor structure and method, filed April 1957, issued March 1960, assigned to Beckmann Instruments
  • U.S. Patent 2,959,681 Semiconductor scanning device, filed June 1959, issued November 1960, assigned to Fairchild Semiconductor
  • U.S. Patent 2,968,750 Transistor structure and method of making the same, filed March 1957, issued January 1961, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 2,971,139 Semiconductor switching device, filed June 1959, issued February 1961, assigned to Fairchild Semiconductor
  • U.S. Patent 2,981,877 Semiconductor Device and Lead Structure, filed July 1959, issued April 1961, assigned to Fairchild Semiconductor
  • U.S. Patent 3,010,033 Field effect transistor, filed January 1958, issued November 1961, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 3,098,160 Field controlled avalanche semiconductive device, filed February 1958, issued July 1963, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 3,108,359 Method for fabricating transistors, filed June 1959, issued October 1963, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.
  • U.S. Patent 3,111,590 Transistor structure controlled by an avalanche barrier, filed June 1958, issued November 1963, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 3,140,206 Method of making a transistor structure (coinventor William Shockley), filed April 1957, issued July 1964, assigned to Clevite Corporation
  • U.S. Patent 3,150,299 Semiconductor circuit complex having isolation means, filed September 1959, issued September 1964, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.
  • U.S. Patent 3,183,129 Method of forming a semiconductor, filed July 1963, issued May 1965, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.
  • U.S. Patent 3,199,002 Solid state circuit with crossing leads, filed April 1961, issued August 1965, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.
  • U.S. Patent 3,325,787 Trainable system, filed October 1964, issued June 1967, assigned to Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.


  1. ^ Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970 By Christophe Lécuyer Published by MIT Press, 2006 ISBN 0262122812, 9780262122818
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce" by Tom Wolfe
  4. ^ Gaylord, Mary Welles (1889). Life and labors of Rev. Reuben Gaylord. Rees Printing Company.  
  5. ^ Shurkin, Joel (2006). Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley. Macmillan. p. 181.  
  6. ^ Jeffrey S. Young (1998). Greatest Technology Stories. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 118. ISBN 0471243744.  
  7. ^ Leslie Berlin, The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005
  8. ^ Leslie R. Berlin, "Robert Noyce and the Rise and Fall of Fairchild Semiconductor, 1957–1968," Business History Review, 75, 1 (2001), 63-101
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^

External links

Business positions
Preceded by
Company founded
Intel CEO
Succeeded by
Gordon Moore


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Robert Norton Noyce (December 12, 1927June 3, 1990), nicknamed "the Mayor of Silicon Valley", co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel in 1968. He is also credited (along with Jack Kilby) with the invention of the integrated circuit or microchip.


  • Innovation is everything. When you're on the forefront, you can see what the next innovation needs to be. When you're behind, you have to spend your energy catching up.
    • as quoted by James W. Botkin, Dan Dimancescu, Ray Stata (1984). The innovators: rediscovering America's creative energy. Harper & Row. p. 165. ISBN 0060152850.  

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