Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age Paperback – January 8, 2008
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
'At last, the definitive, unstinting biography of this hugely important historical figure - complete with all his contradictions and idiosyncrasies.' - Michael Riordan, coauthor of Crystal Fire
'Shurkin deftly tackles this complex figure - and his unraveling - and delivers an unflinching portrait of a tragic life.' - Seed Magazine
'Shurkin does a good job of portraying a difficult man - a vivid portrait.'- NewScientist
'The other wonderful thing about this book is that it manages to convey the excitement of scientific inquiry and invention.' - New York Sun
'Shurkin is a good storyteller, and better still as a researcher of the personal facts.' - Nobel Laureate Professor Philip Anderson, Times Higher Educational Supplement
'FIVE STARS: this gripping biography gives a balanced picture of the most bizarre of the great names of electronics. Recommended.' - Brian Clegg, author of The God Effect and Light Years
'I recommend it to people curious about the history of technology and the computer or anyone interested in a rise and fall of truly epic proportions.' - Cory Ondrejka, CTO Linden Labs/Second Life
'This portrait of a flawed giant reveals a man crushed under the weight of his own pathological insecurities.' - David Bodanis, Discover
'Masterfully walks the fine line between presenting Shockley as purely evil and legitimizing his more controversial theories - very readable.' - Physics World
'Shurkin reveals Shockley to be a fascinating example of an Aristotelian tragic hero - riveting.' - Nature
'This informed and candid biography asks, 'Why did a man so brilliant deliberately destroy himself?'' - Skeptical Inquiry
About the Author
Discover books for all types of engineers, auto enthusiasts, and much more. Learn more
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Apportioning credit in a group effort in an industrial setting is difficult and can be contentious even despite the best intentions of all concerned. Documentation is sketchy, memories often fail, lawyers are involved, and management has its own axes to grind. I've seen all this at first-hand in a large industrial laboratory, and have participated in endless lunchtime conversations on the twists and turns the patent process takes. Sometimes hard feelings in supposedly mature scientists sour relationships and even sever productive friendships. Bruising, but inevitable, in a way...
Shockley actually had three major phases in his working life as a scientist. In the first, he was an important and productive worker in the then new field of operations research applied to warfare in WWII.Read more ›
The transistor Nobel was awarded in 1954 to Shockley and his Bell Labs colleagues John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. A problematic aspect of the choice to honor all three was that although Shockley nominally led the research group, his direct involvement in the original (point contact) transistor invention was minimal. He did, however, have a legitimate conceptual claim to the later junction-type device, which became the practical transistor we know today. Shurkin's description of the contentious priority issues involved, and the human interactions among the principals, is fascinating.
One might say it's ironically fitting that a self-assured, iconoclastic, socially tone-deaf character like Shockley would blunder into the potential minefield of race/intelligence studies. On top of that, he chose the most politically radioactive combination possible -- white vs. black. The spectrum of opinion on that topic was (and is) bracketed at one end by bigots who just knew there must be an intelligence gap, and at the other end by knee-jerk egalitarians who just knew there couldn't possibly be one. The bigots embarrassed Shockley with unwanted support, and the egalitarians excoriated him for even looking at the question.Read more ›
- helping the US Navy to win the Second World War with his spectacular work in Operational Research,
- his pioneering work on nuclear fission that was suppressed because it was an embarrassment to the government labs he beat to the punch,
- his invention of a transistor,
- his close proximity to the invention of the first transistor, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize,
- his being an accomplished professor at Stanford
- and his unhappy championing of a link between race and intelligence, which brought him into the close proximity of eugenic thinking, and made many deeply dislike him, such that his public appearances were often accompanied by demonstrations.
I enjoyed this book as a chronicle of Shockley's life, but found it to be disappointing in that I felt that it failed to explain why Shockley did what he did, most particularly, why did Shockley insist on publicly discussing his eugenic views? Was it because he lived for the notoriety? Was it due to a form of egomania? Can it be attributed to his political views? Shurkin doesn't tell us.
Shockley was, by all accounts, a very difficult, even insufferable, person, who, by the time he breathed his last, had few friends. To my mind it's clear that he suffered from what psychologists would describe as a personality disorder, and maybe even something similar to Asperger's. Shurkin explains these facts in a single paragraph; yet perhaps more than any other fact, they explain the trajectory of his life, the purported focus of this book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have been asked, of my reviews of biographies, am I reviewing the book? - or the person? Good question. Read morePublished 3 months ago by J. P.
A tolerable, informative biography of Shockley. One problem is that the index is inadequate. Major players in Shockley's life and beyond are either not mentioned in the index at... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Robert Speck
Fast delivery, The book looks new, The title tell all - the author gave an excellent account of what Bill had done, plus what Bill had suffered.Published 18 months ago by Happy Ho
I was fascinated with this book on the early part that lead up to the development and creation of the silicon transistor. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Gerry
William Shockley is famous for it's invention of the transistor and for starting a semiconductor company that later led to Fairchild (which in turn led to Intel). Read morePublished on February 7, 2013 by Bas Vodde
I am electrical engineer, and for me Shockley is THE inventor of junction transistor. Unfortunately, this period of his life is covered maybe on 50 pages and considered by the... Read morePublished on November 23, 2010 by Amazon Customer
This book attempts to portray Shockley's views on the genetic basis of intelligence and its relationship to race and eugenics in a sympathetic light by pointing out that other... Read morePublished on November 22, 2010 by arpard fazakas
William Shockley is the greatest genius ever lived. It is wrong to title the book "Broken Genius". Shockley is not broken in any way.Published on September 28, 2009 by Sam