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Without transistors

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Without transistors

"John was [at Princeton] in graduate school. He was a little ahead of me, and actually I think Walter met him through me because Walter was up at Bell Labs, and he would often phone me up and say, 'Well, get one of your bridge-playing buddies, and bring him up.'"
–Bob Brattain, March 1998

"Walter and I spent our early youth on the cattle ranch in eastern Washington, and of course this kind of a life teaches you an independence which stays with you for the rest of your life."  
–Bob Brattain, March 1998



Robert Brattain

Bob Brattain was the man who first introduced Walter Brattain, his brother, to John Bardeen. Bob was a physicist at Princeton with Bardeen and the two used to play bridge together. "John was my bowling partner and bridge enemy," Bob has said. The two men would travel up to New York to visit Walter and spend the weekend battling out the cards. 

Bob grew up with Walter on a cattle ranch in Washington. While the two boys could have easily ended up as farmers for life, their parents were both college graduates who encouraged their children to get a strong education.  "Mother, I think, if she'd been born 50 years later would have been a famous mathematician," Bob says. So, it was natural that Bob pursued a grad degree, entering Princeton's physics department in 1933. 

While he spent much of his career working at Shell Oil, Bob had the chance to observe much of what was going on at Bell through talking to his brother. He currently is retired and lives in California.


Bob Brattain talks about his mathematical lineage:
"Mother and father were both college graduates. My father had a degree in geology. Mother, I think, if she had been born 50 years later, would have been a famous mathematician. The amazing thing about her—when Walter was at the University of Oregon, where he got a Master's degree, he came back and lived with us in Seattle one summer and took a course in advanced calculus at the University of Washington because he wanted to get his mathematics a little better—and 28 years after having been in any college mathematics, my mother could help him."

Bob Brattain ponders a world without transistors:
"If the transistor were abolished tomorrow, you would not be recording this; we would have not been on the moon; we would not send things around Jupiter; we wouldn't have computers on my desk downstairs that are more powerful than the one that we spent a million and a half dollars for at the laboratories."

--Crystal Fire by Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson  
--Robert Brattain, interview for "Transistorized!"

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