Walter Houser Brattain - Physicists, Timeline and Life

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Walter Houser Brattain's Personal Details

Walter Houser Brattain was an American physicist who jointly received the ‘Nobel Prize in Physics’ in 1956

InformationDetail
BirthdayFebruary 10, 1902
Died onOctober 13, 1987
NationalityAmerican
FamousPrinceton University, University Of Minnesota, University Of Oregon, Scientists, Physicists
SpousesEmma Jane (Kirsch) Miller, Keren Gilmore
SiblingsMari Brattain, R. Robert Brattain
Known asWalter H. Brattain
Childrens William G. Brattain
Universities
  • Princeton University,University Of Minnesota,University Of Oregon
  • Whitman College
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Minnesota
Notable Alumnis
  • Princeton University
  • University Of Minnesota
  • University Of Oregon
Birth PlaceXiamen, Fujian, China
GenderMale
FatherRoss R. Brattain
MotherOttilie Houser Brattain
Sun SignAquarius
Born inXiamen, Fujian, China
Famous asPhysicist
Died at Age85

// Famous Alumni of University Of Oregon

Walter Houser Brattain's photo

Who is Walter Houser Brattain?

Walter Houser Brattain was an American physicist who jointly received the ‘Nobel Prize in Physics’ in 1956 with fellow scientists John Bardeen and William Shockley for their landmark invention of transistor. While Brattain and Bardeen were recognised for their invention of the point-contact transistor, Shockley was credited for inventing junction transistor. Brattain dedicated most of his research career in investigating surface states, especially atomic composition of a material’s surface that generally differs from atomic composition of its interior. He along with Bardeen worked on a project at the ‘Bell Laboratories’ to comprehend semiconductors in a better way so that these can be applied properly in amplifying signals. Investigations of the duo led to the path-breaking discovery of the first transistor in 1947. They shared credit with William Shockley, their supervisor who almost right away invented the junction transistor. In no time transistor became a replacement for bulky and expensive vacuum tubes leading to its widespread application in electronic devices. This breakthrough invention paved way for a virtual revolution by way of other developments in the field of electronics like fax machines, computers, satellites and cell phones. Brattain served as visiting lecturer at ‘Harvard University’ and at ‘Whitman College’ and upon retirement from ‘Bell Laboratories’ he served as adjunct professor at ‘Whitman College’. He also jointly received the ‘Stuart Ballantine Medal’ (1952) and the ‘John Scott Medal’ (1954) with Bardeen.

// Famous Physicists

Childhood & Early Life

Walter H. Brattain was born on February 10, 1902, in Xiamen, Fujian, China to Ross R. Brattain and Ottilie Houser Brattain. His father was a teacher at the ‘Ting-Wen Institute’ in China while his mother was a talented mathematician. His sister was Mari Brattain and brother was R. Robert Brattain who became a physicist.

In 1903, when he was still a toddler, he returned to the US with his mother, while his father joined them later.

He spent several years of his childhood in Spokane, Washington. In 1911 he moved with his family to a cattle ranch near Tonasket, Washington. He attended three high schools in Washington - first the ‘Queen Anne High School’ in Seattle (1915-16), then the ‘Tonasket High School’ in Tonasket (1916-18) and thereafter the ‘Moran School’ in Bainbridge Island (1920).

He joined ‘Whitman College’ in Walla Walla, Washington, from where his parents had graduated. In 1924 he earned a BS degree with a double major in mathematics and physics. He and his classmates E. John Workman, Vladimir Rojansky and Walker Bleakney, who achieved great heights in their respective careers, became famous as “the four horsemen of physics".

In 1926 he obtained MA degree from ‘University of Oregon’ in Eugene.

In 1929 he completed his Ph.D. from ‘University of Minnesota’ submitting thesis on ‘Efficiency of Excitation by Electron Impact and Anomalous Scattering in Mercury Vapor’, prepared under the supervision of noted American physicist John Torrence Tate, Sr.

He learned about the new field of quantum mechanics under distinguished American physicist and mathematician John Hasbrouck Van Vleck in Michigan.

Career

In 1927 he joined ‘National Bureau of Standards’ in Washington, D.C., as a radio engineer and aided in developing piezoelectric frequency standards.

He joined research and scientific development company, ‘Bell Telephone Laboratories’ (presently ‘Nokia Bell Labs’) as a research physicist in August 1929 and started working with Joseph A. Becker on the thermally induced flow of charge carriers in copper oxide rectifiers. Some of their experiments on thermal emission catered to the experimental confirmation of the Sommerfeld theory, developed principally by German theoretical physicist Arnold Sommerfeld.

Brattain examined rectification and photo-effects on semiconductor surfaces of silicon and cuprous oxide and invented photo-effect at the free surface of a semiconductor.

During that period vacuum tubes had widespread application in the telephone industry even though these lacked efficiency and reliability. Thus the ‘Bell Laboratories’ made effort in developing an alternate technology.

In the early 1930s Brattain and William B. Shockley attempted in developing a field effect transistor at the ‘Bell Laboratories’, by working on the concept of a semiconductor amplifier that applied copper oxide, but remained unsuccessful.

While the Second World War was on, Brattain and Shockley became associated with ‘National Defense Research Committee’ and separately researched on magnetic detection of submarines at the ‘Columbia University’. Brattain’s team succeeded in developing magnetometers that were sensitive enough to discover irregularities in the magnetic field of earth caused due to submarines. This work led him to patent a design for a magnetometer head in 1944.

The ‘Bell Laboratories’ formed a team of researchers in 1945 to conduct fundamental research in the field of solid state physics with regard to communications technologies. American physicist and electrical engineer John Bardeen joined the team which was jointly led by Shockley and Stanley O. Morgan. Brattain knew Bardeen from the 1930s as a close friend of his brother Robert.

Shockley assigned Brattain and Bardeen the job of ascertaining the reason which was deterring his field effect transistor, a cylinder with a thin coating of silicon and seated near a metal plate, from functioning. The duo conducted several experiments in this pursuit and later Bardeen conceptualised that the possible reason for such non-functioning could be local differences in the surface state which trapped the charge carriers.

Brattain and Bardeen thrived in developing amplification, though of small level, by including a gold metal point into the silicon and enclosing it with distilled water. By substituting germanium in place of silicon they succeeded in enhancing the amplification, although for currents of low frequency.

Shockley, Brattain and Bardeen finally displayed their first working transistor to their fellow scientists in Bell on December 23, 1947.

Thereafter Brattain worked with another research team of the lab that included scientists like P. J. Boddy and C. G. B. Garrett.

Later along with P. N. Sawyer and Boddy, he collaborated on a number of papers related to electrochemical methods in living matter. He also investigated the surface of living cells as well as their absorption procedures by applying phospholipid bilayers as a model, along with David Frasco, chemistry professor of ‘Whitman College’.

In 1952 he remained a visiting lecturer at ‘Harvard University.

He was conferred honorary D. Sc by ‘Portland University’ (1952), ‘Union College’ (1955), ‘Whitman College’ (1955) and ‘University of Minnesota’ (1957).

He served as a visiting lecturer at ‘Whitman College’ in 1962 and 1963 and became its visiting professor in 1963.

In 1967 he retired from ‘Bell Laboratories’, while continuing with his teaching work at the ‘Whitman College’ where he became an adjunct professor in 1972. In 1976 he retired from the college, but continued to serve as its consultant.

Brattain was a member of many renowned institutes and committees including ‘National Academy of Sciences’, ‘American Academy of Arts and Sciences’, ‘Naval Research Advisory Committee’ and the ‘Franklin Institute’.

Awards & Achievements

He was jointly awarded the ‘Nobel Prize in Physics’ in 1956 with John Bardeen and William Shockley by King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden.

Personal Life & Legacy

He married Keren Gilmore, a chemist, in 1935. Their son, William G. Brattain was born in 1943. William became a puzzle designer.

After Keren died of cancer on April 10, 1957, Brattain married Emma Jane (Kirsch) Miller, a mother of three, in 1958.

He suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died in a nursing home in Seattle, Washington on October 13, 1987. He was interred in the Pomeroy City Cemetery in Garfield County, Washington, US. A Y-shaped circuitry and schematics symbolizing transistor is engraved on his tombstone.

Trivia

The Walter Brattain Scholarship program was initiated by ‘Whitman College’ in his honour.

// Famous Alumni of Princeton University

Walter Houser Brattain awards

YearNameAward

Other

Stuart Ballantine Medal (1952)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1956)

Walter Houser Brattain biography timelines

  • // 10th Feb 1902
    Walter H. Brattain was born on February 10, 1902, in Xiamen, Fujian, China to Ross R. Brattain and Ottilie Houser Brattain. His father was a teacher at the ‘Ting-Wen Institute’ in China while his mother was a talented mathematician. His sister was Mari Brattain and brother was R. Robert Brattain who became a physicist.
  • // 1903
    In 1903, when he was still a toddler, he returned to the US with his mother, while his father joined them later.
  • // 1924
    He joined ‘Whitman College’ in Walla Walla, Washington, from where his parents had graduated. In 1924 he earned a BS degree with a double major in mathematics and physics. He and his classmates E. John Workman, Vladimir Rojansky and Walker Bleakney, who achieved great heights in their respective careers, became famous as “the four horsemen of physics".
  • // 1926
    In 1926 he obtained MA degree from ‘University of Oregon’ in Eugene.
  • // 1927
    In 1927 he joined ‘National Bureau of Standards’ in Washington, D.C., as a radio engineer and aided in developing piezoelectric frequency standards.
  • // 1929
    In 1929 he completed his Ph.D. from ‘University of Minnesota’ submitting thesis on ‘Efficiency of Excitation by Electron Impact and Anomalous Scattering in Mercury Vapor’, prepared under the supervision of noted American physicist John Torrence Tate, Sr.
  • // Aug 1929
    He joined research and scientific development company, ‘Bell Telephone Laboratories’ (presently ‘Nokia Bell Labs’) as a research physicist in August 1929 and started working with Joseph A. Becker on the thermally induced flow of charge carriers in copper oxide rectifiers. Some of their experiments on thermal emission catered to the experimental confirmation of the Sommerfeld theory, developed principally by German theoretical physicist Arnold Sommerfeld.
  • // 1935 To 1943
    He married Keren Gilmore, a chemist, in 1935. Their son, William G. Brattain was born in 1943. William became a puzzle designer.
  • // 1944
    While the Second World War was on, Brattain and Shockley became associated with ‘National Defense Research Committee’ and separately researched on magnetic detection of submarines at the ‘Columbia University’. Brattain’s team succeeded in developing magnetometers that were sensitive enough to discover irregularities in the magnetic field of earth caused due to submarines. This work led him to patent a design for a magnetometer head in 1944.
  • // 1945
    The ‘Bell Laboratories’ formed a team of researchers in 1945 to conduct fundamental research in the field of solid state physics with regard to communications technologies. American physicist and electrical engineer John Bardeen joined the team which was jointly led by Shockley and Stanley O. Morgan. Brattain knew Bardeen from the 1930s as a close friend of his brother Robert.
  • // 23rd Dec 1947
    Shockley, Brattain and Bardeen finally displayed their first working transistor to their fellow scientists in Bell on December 23, 1947.
  • // 1952
    In 1952 he remained a visiting lecturer at ‘Harvard University.
  • // 1956
    He was jointly awarded the ‘Nobel Prize in Physics’ in 1956 with John Bardeen and William Shockley by King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden.
  • // 10th Apr 1957 To 1958
    After Keren died of cancer on April 10, 1957, Brattain married Emma Jane (Kirsch) Miller, a mother of three, in 1958.
  • // 13th Oct 1987
    He suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died in a nursing home in Seattle, Washington on October 13, 1987. He was interred in the Pomeroy City Cemetery in Garfield County, Washington, US. A Y-shaped circuitry and schematics symbolizing transistor is engraved on his tombstone.

// Famous Scientists

Walter Houser Brattain's FAQ

  • What is Walter Houser Brattain birthday?

    Walter Houser Brattain was born at 1902-02-10

  • When was Walter Houser Brattain died?

    Walter Houser Brattain was died at 1987-10-13

  • Where was Walter Houser Brattain died?

    Walter Houser Brattain was died in Seattle, Washington, US

  • Which age was Walter Houser Brattain died?

    Walter Houser Brattain was died at age 85

  • Where is Walter Houser Brattain's birth place?

    Walter Houser Brattain was born in Xiamen, Fujian, China

  • What is Walter Houser Brattain nationalities?

    Walter Houser Brattain's nationalities is American

  • Who is Walter Houser Brattain spouses?

    Walter Houser Brattain's spouses is Emma Jane (Kirsch) Miller, Keren Gilmore

  • Who is Walter Houser Brattain siblings?

    Walter Houser Brattain's siblings is Mari Brattain, R. Robert Brattain

  • Who is Walter Houser Brattain childrens?

    Walter Houser Brattain's childrens is William G. Brattain

  • What was Walter Houser Brattain universities?

    Walter Houser Brattain studied at Princeton University,University Of Minnesota,University Of Oregon, Whitman College, University of Oregon, University of Minnesota

  • What was Walter Houser Brattain notable alumnis?

    Walter Houser Brattain's notable alumnis is Princeton University, University Of Minnesota, University Of Oregon

  • Who is Walter Houser Brattain's father?

    Walter Houser Brattain's father is Ross R. Brattain

  • Who is Walter Houser Brattain's mother?

    Walter Houser Brattain's mother is Ottilie Houser Brattain

  • What is Walter Houser Brattain's sun sign?

    Walter Houser Brattain is Aquarius

  • How famous is Walter Houser Brattain?

    Walter Houser Brattain is famouse as Physicist