Nobel Prize Recipient. Walter Houser Brattain, an American physicist, received world-wide recognition for being awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics. He co-shared the covet award with two other Americans, John Bardeen and William Bradford Shockley. According to the Nobel Prize committee, the award was given "for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect." In 1947 Bardeen and Brattain produced a semiconductor amplifier, which was further developed by Shockley. The component was named a "transistor". The transistor replaced the bulkier vacuum tube for many uses and was the forerunner of microminiature electronic parts. The device led to the improvements in common household items in the mid-20th century such as radios, television, and telephones and later in the 21st century, the invention of cell phones, computers and more. Since 1953, he received seven nominations for a Nobel candidacy. Born while his American father was a teacher at the Ting-Wen Institute, a private school in China for boys, his mother was considered a gifted mathematician. After coming to the United States in 1903, he was educated in the Washington State public school system along with one year at Moran School, a private school to prepare students for the United States Naval Academy. Like both of his parents, he attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, earning a B.S. Degree with a double major in physics and mathematics in 1924. He received his M.A. degree in 1926 from the University of Oregon and his Ph.D. Degree from the University of Minnesota in 1929, with the thesis "Efficiency of Excitation by Electron Impact and Anomalous Scattering in Mercury Vapor." From 1928 to 1929 he had a position at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. In 1929 he became a research physicist for Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, staying until 1967. It was during this time that the discovery of the transistor happened. During World War II, he worked for the war research division at Columbia University, where he did research on the magnetic detection of submarines. Upon leaving Bell Telephone, he returned to Washington State and served as an adjunct professor at Whitman College from 1967 to 1972, becoming the designated overseer emeritus. At Whitman College, the Walter Brattain Scholarships are awarded annually on a merit basis. Besides teaching at Whitman College, he taught at Harvard University as a visiting lecturer in 1952. He was granted a number of patents and wrote many articles on solid-state physics. He belonged to several learned societies and received four honorary doctorate degrees. Brattain was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1959. Receiving jointly with Dr. John Bardeen, he was awarded the Stuart Ballantine Medal from the Franklin Institute in 1952 and John Scott Legacy Medal in 1954. In 1974 he was inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He married twice. He married a physical chemist, who died on April 10, 1957, leaving a fourteen-year-old son. He remarried a year later. He died from the complications of Alzheimer's disease in a long-term care facility. The international symbol for the transistor was engraved on his grave marker.
Bio by: Linda Davis
Gravesite Details Contributor JTRobertson (47385781)