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Shocking theories
Missed chance

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Shocking theories
Missed chance

Joel Shurkin talks about Shockley's paranoia:

"Bill Shockley suffered from many of the symptoms of what we call now paranoid personality disorder. For example, he tape recorded every single telephone conversation for the last 22 years of his life. They couldnšt order out for pizza without it being on tape someplace. He saved every piece of correspondence—that includes Christmas cards, Federal Express receipts, you name it. Every single letter, including many letters he should have thrown out. He was an extremely unpleasant person to deal with because of that paranoia. He was a terrible, terrible manager. He wanted total control. He has been burnt at Bell Labs, he felt. And he wanted to make sure that that would not happen again, essentially, in his company."

Joel Shurkin 

Joel Shurkin is the author of Broken Genius: A Biography of William B. Shockley, which will be published soon. While working on Shockley's biography he discovered that there was more material to use than he knew what to do with—Shockley had saved practically every piece of paper that ever crossed his desk. 

Shurkin is currently bureau chief for Medcast, an Internet news service for physicians at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, and for five years was a free lance journalist in Santa Cruz, California. From 1980 to 1993, he worked as a science writer at Stanford, where Shockley taught at the end of his life. Joel has been writing about science since 1961, and shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his coverage of Three Mile Island with the team from The Philadelphia Inquirer. That same year, he also won the national Association of Science Teachers Best Children's Science Book Award for his book Jupiter, The Star That Failed


Joel Shurkin talks about Shockley's missed chance at riches:
"If Shockley had been a better manager, he'd be one of the richest people in the world today. He would have been the match for Bill Gates. He is the father of Silicon Valley; he knew more than anybody in the world the importance of these machines, these transistors; he knew that he was revolutionizing the world; he knew that if his company could control the direction that the transistor should go toward, that he would be very rich. Unfortunately, he was a terrible manager and he never had the chance."

Joel Shurkin talks about Shockley's shocking theories on race and intelligence:
"Bill Shockley became a professor at Stanford, full time. He became involved in what he called human quality problems—the problems of genetics, the problems of intelligence; he got involved in an old theory called eugenics. Shockley believed: a) that intelligence is largely genetic, that your genes determine how bright you are and how far you can go in life. He was convinced that blacks lacked the same intelligence that whites did—as a whole, not individually. And what he apparently, what he obviously did was start a fight with the scientific establishment on a theory that the scientific establishment did not want to hear about. He became probably the most hated scientist in America, and absolutely destroyed his career and his reputation. Bill Shockley's life was right out of Sophocles and a Greek tragedy. In Greek tragedy, you have pride, you have pride before the fall, then you have the fall. The only difference between Shockley and a hero in Sophocles was redemption—Shockley was never redeemed. He died, I think, a bitter, certainly a lonely man, with his reputation destroyed. If you were to ask anybody about Shockley, they remember the racial aspects—they do not remember the transistor. It's a very sad story."



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