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Memorial Tributes, Volume 14
Working closely with chemist Gordon Teal, Sparks developed a more practical means of fabricating junction transistors by adding tiny amounts of specific impurities to germanium crystals during their growth process. Called the “grown-junction transistor,” this breakthrough was announced by Bell Labs on July 4, 1951. Shortly thereafter, Shockley, Sparks and Teal published these results in a now-famous paper in Physical Review.
In 1955, Sparks became a Director of Solid State Research at Bell Labs, and advanced through its management ranks, becoming Vice President of Electronics Technology by 1971. In these capacities, he led efforts to develop silicon integrated circuits for the Bell Telephone System.
Sparks was the last surviving member of the original Shockley group at Bell Labs. Ian Ross, president of the Labs from 1979 to 1991, put Sparks’ work on the transistor in perspective. “In a very real sense … Morgan’s work … completed the innovation that was the invention of the transistor.” Ross, who first met Sparks in 1952 and remained a lifelong friend, added: “In everything he did … Morgan was always a calm, constructive, and good-tempered person. But that suggests one more outstanding attribute, his ever-present sense of humor. Those who have known him have indeed been privileged.”
Morgan’s career at Bell Labs ensured his place in the history of American science and technology, but he also left his mark in Albuquerque on the hearts and minds of a generation of Sandia researchers. When Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), who was elected to the Senate the same year (1972) Morgan became Sandia director, learned of his passing, he said, “Morgan Sparks set a high standard for the professional, efficient management of Sandia National Labs. He recognized the future need to channel lab science into technology transfer, and he laid the groundwork to link defense-based research to applications that now impact our lives every day. I credit Dr. Sparks for working to make Sandia one of the best-run labs in the nation. He was my friend.”
When President Harry S. Truman established Sandia in the late 1940s, he recruited American Telephone & Telegraph