WALTER HOUSER BRATTAIN

February 10, 1902–October 13, 1987

BY JOHN BARDEEN

MOST NOTED AS A coinventor of the transistor, Walter H. Brattain, an experimental physicist, spent the bulk of his professional career at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, first on West Street in New York City and later in Murray Hill, New Jersey. For the discovery of the transistor effect, he shared the 1956 Nobel Prize for physics with William B. Shockley and me. His main interests focused on the electrical properties of surfaces and interfaces, first on thermionic cathodes for applications to vacuum tubes and later on semiconductors for applications to diodes and transistors. Toward the end of his career, he became interested in biophysical problems in which electrolytic conduction plays an important role. Brattain was an initial member of the Bell Solid State Department, formed at the end of World War II to exploit the understanding of properties of solids made possible by quantum theory.

For some years before his retirement from Bell, Brattain taught on a part-time basis at his alma mater, Whitman College, and returned there to teach following his retirement. His research at Whitman was mainly on flow of ions through lipid bilayers in collaborations at Whitman and Battelle Northwest Laboratories.

Brattain loved the Northwest, where he had spent his



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