"Well at our wedding the thing I remember is [Shockley] had somebody jack up the back wheels and leave it that way, with the wheels off the ground. And in those days all cars were rear-wheel driven. So when we got ready to leave. . . And the rice was thrown and all, and I put it in gear -- nothing happened, except spinning our wheels." -- Morgan Sparks
As scientists began to leave the Shockley group , they were naturally replaced. Morgan Sparks was one of the men who joined the group after the invention of the transistor. But he jumped right in and led the effort to build junction transistors -- taking Shockley's idea and turning it into a workable device. Working with Gordon Teal, Sparks built most of the first junction transistor prototypes, concentrating on figuring out how to grow the necessary semiconductor crystals.
Sparks grew up in Colorado and earned his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 1943. His first job when he graduated was with Bell Labs. When Robert Gibney left the semiconductor group in the spring of 1948, the group needed a new physical chemist -- Sparks was transferred in.
Sparks got along well with Shockley, and worked closely with him. Sparks also got along well with Shockley's secretary -- Bette MacEvoy. The two socialized a lot with others in the group, and in 1949 they were married. Shockley was at the wedding; he'd gotten quite a reputation for playing practical jokes at that point, and this was no exception. He disabled the bride and groom's getaway car. Everyone laughed as the Sparks tried to speed away and ended up just spinning their wheels in the mud.
Although Shockley tried to entice Sparks to California when he left, Sparks stayed on at Bell Labs, gradually moving up through the ranks into management. In 1972, he was transferred to New Mexico, as president of Sandia Laboratories, a national lab managed by AT&T. Sparks retired from Bell in 1981.
Morgan Sparks talks about Bell Labs' cooperation
in making the transistor available:
Morgan Sparks on Bill Shockley's need for speed:
-PBS Online- -Site Credits- -Photo Credits- -Feedback-
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.