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JACK ST. CLAIR KILBY

1923–2005

Elected in 1967

“For inventions basic to integrated circuits.”


BY TOM ENGIBOUS


JACK ST. CLAIR KILBY, inventor of the integrated circuit and pioneer in the semiconductor industry, died of cancer on June 20, 2005, at his home in Dallas at the age of 81. First and foremost an engineer, he took satisfaction and pleasure in finding practical solutions to vexing problems.

Jack was born on November 8, 1923, in Jefferson City, Missouri, to Hubert and Vina Freitag Kilby. When he was still young, the family moved to Great Bend, Kansas, where he and his sister, Jane, were reared. He considered Great Bend his hometown.

His father was president of a small power company with customers scattered across rural western Kansas. In 1937, a severe ice storm hit the region, downing telephone and power lines. Although he was just a teenager at the time, Jack accompanied his father as he worked with amateur radio operators to communicate with isolated customers. That experience triggered Jack’s lifelong interest in electronics. Following the storm, he got his own radio license, built a transmitter, learned all he could from older ham radio operators, and began to operate radios himself. These events influenced his decision to study electrical engineering.

Jack applied to MIT but narrowly missed passing the math portion of his entrance exam. Instead, in 1941, he ended up at his father’s alma mater, the University of Illinois. Like many in his generation, his education was interrupted by World War II.



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