Julius E. Lilienfeld — HoF: For inventing and patenting the first FET semiconductor in 1926
- While the materials to make such devices were decades away from being ready, the Field Effect Transistor is the foundation of the modern semiconductor industry
- Method and apparatus for controlling electric currents described the FET. U. S. Patent No. 1,745,175 (Filed in Canada on 22 Oct 1925 and later in the U.S. on 8 Oct 8, 1926 and issued 18 January1930)
- Device for controlling electric current described a thin-film version of the FET. U. S. Patent No. 1,900,018 (Filed 28 Mar 1928 and issued 7 Mar 1933)
- Bell Labs would discover the point-contact transistor in 1947, though William Shockley had first researched it in 1939 at Bell Labs, in search of a solid-state replacement for mechanical solenoids in order to lower the cost of replacement
The FET transistor was first invented by Julius E. Lilienfeld in 1925 -- a full 22 years before Bell Labs would discover the point-contact transistor in 1947 and the much more practical bipolar junction transistor in 1948. The highly lauded point-contact transistor would not stand the test of time, due to difficulties in volume manufacturing. While bipolar structures would continue, both would eventually be superceded by the more cost effective Field Effect Transistor (FET). Lilienfeld's research would pave the way, with William Shockley first researching it in 1939 at Bell Labs, in search of a solid-state replacement for mechanical solenoids in order to lower the cost of replacement and increase reliability of AT&T's phone network. However, America's entry into World War II forced Shockley to set aside work on the solid-state transistor or other, more important work, at the time. Another reason why it took so long, was that while such a device could be described on paper with theoretical physics in the 1920s, the high-purity materials needed to make such devices work were decades away from being ready. Another barrier was having the deposition and etch tools needed to put down and pattern thin films. Nevertheless, the path was lit for others to follow. Eventually, the Field Effect Transistor would become the foundation of the modern semiconductor industry and kick off the information age via Moore's Law.