Gordon Teal

Gordon Teal wasn't there for the birth of the transistor -- he didn't work in the Shockley lab when it was first invented -- but he helped the transistor grow to its full potential.  While working at Bell Labs, Teal figured out how to grow the pure germanium crystals necessary for the junction transistor and later, after he had moved to Texas Instruments, he built the first working silicon transistor.
Teal grew up in Texas, went to Baylor University for his undergraduate degree, and earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Brown University.  While at Brown in the late 1920s, he had done research on germanium, which he said fascinated him by its pure uselessness.  Of course, germanium didn't turn out to be so useless years later, when he was working at Bell Labs.  Teal  worked in the Chemical Research Department at Bell, and he was occasionally asked to grow crystals for work being done down the hall in the group working on the transistor. 

Teal was fascinated by the transistor, and he knew he could grow better crystals than the ones he'd been asked to.  Through sheer stubbornness, he continued working on purifying crystals even though it took him a while to convince anyone in the Shockley lab that his new method of crystal growing was important. In the end, however, it was Teal's special crystals that turned Shockley's vision of an improved  transistor into a reality.

In 1952, Teal answered a want ad in the New York Times for a job at Texas Instruments. Teal wanted to move back to Texas and he knew that TI had attended a transistor workshop at Bell Labs to learn how to build transistors.  Teal was hired on as director of the TI research department, and in many ways he was the spark that turned Texas Instruments into the company it is today.  Once he was hired, other top-notch scientists soon joined the team.  Most importantly, within two years, Teal had built the first silicon transistor, which catapulted the small start-up company into the limelight. 

Copyright 1999, ScienCentral, Inc, and The American Institute of Physics. No portion of this web site may be reproduced without written permission. All Rights Reserved.