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  • Transistor Inventor Dies
May 2008
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 8, 2008 -- Morgan Sparks, inventor of the first practical transistor and a former director of Sandia National Laboratories, has died.

Sparks died on Saturday at his daughter's home in Fullerton, Calif., Sandia National Labs said in a statement. He was 91.

Sparks spent 30 years with Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, joining shortly after William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain invented the idea of the point-contact transistor to amplify or switch electronic signals in the 1940s, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956. Shockley then conceived of a sandwich-like transistor called a junction transistor that contained layers of semiconductor material.
Morgan Sparks holds a transistor. (Undated photo courtesy Sandia National Laboratories)
Sparks took the junction transistor idea, fashioned the first working prototypes and guided the semiconductor device into production. The device has since revolutionized almost every aspect of modern life, with billions of these microscopic switches now crowding the surfaces of the most advanced microchips in electronic devices such as personal computers, cell phones, hearing aids and DVD players.

Sparks served as director of Sandia Labs in Albuquerque from 1972 until his retirement in 1981, then accepted an appointment to the Robert O. Anderson School of Management at The University of New Mexico where he served as dean from 1981 to 1984.

"Morgan was president when I was a young staff member at Sandia. He set the framework for Sandia to become a multiprogram lab. He was widely recognized for his ability to engage the labs in many new areas that proved to be important for our future. He was also a great supporter of the country and the University of New Mexico. He made a big impact on all of us," said current Labs Director Tom Hunter.

"Morgan Sparks set the standards for the professional, efficient management of Sandia National Labs. He recognized the future need to brand science into technology transfer, and he laid the groundwork to link defense-based research to applications that impact all our lives every day," said Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.)

His wife of 57 years, Elizabeth MacEvoy Sparks, died in 2006; they have four children.

A memorial service will be held in Albuquerque later this month.

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The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
An electronic device consisting of a semiconductor material, generally germanium or silicon, and used for rectification, amplification and switching. Its mode of operation utilizes transmission across the junction of the donor electrons and holes.
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