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.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

  • List Price: $19.00
  • Save: $4.75 (25%)
FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Broken Genius: The Rise a... has been added to your Cart
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Some wear to cover, minor corner dings
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age (Macmillan Science) Paperback – January 8, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Price
New from Used from
Paperback
"Please retry"
$14.25
$8.83 $4.94

The Amazon Book Review
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
$14.25 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. In Stock. Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Frequently Bought Together

  • Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age (Macmillan Science)
  • +
  • The Intel Trinity: How Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Andy Grove Built the World's Most Important Company
  • +
  • The Chip : How Two Americans Invented the Microchip and Launched a Revolution
Total price: $55.83
Buy the selected items together


Editorial Reviews

Review

'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

JOEL N. SHURKIN is Science Writer Emeritus at Stanford University, USA, where he has written and taught for many years. He covered the moon landings for Reuters, served ten years as Science Writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer and was on the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Three Mile Island, among many other awards. He has written nine books including Terman's Kids (Little, Brown) about the study of gifted students, Invisible Fire, on the eradication of smallpox, a science-fiction novel called The Helix (Norton) and most recently A Consumer's Guide to Psychotherapy (OUP). His definitive history of the computer, Engines of the Mind (Norton), is in multiple editions in several languages.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Macmillan Science
  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230551920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230551923
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,603,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald B. Siano on August 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Joel Shurkin has done a reasonably good job in this book, and it is well worth reading if you have an interest in the history of technology and the forces that shape our times. Shockley was a very important player in the development of the transistor at Bell Labs, and his story has a lot to inform the reader about how scientists in an industrial laboratory work together in a situation that demands cooperation to get to the objective, and the competitive personalities that are found in people who excel. The story is usually told in a very oversimplified version like this: "Bardeen and Brattain invented the transistor and their boss, Shockley took the credit. He later went off the deep end into eugenics and racism." Shurkin shows that there was a whole lot more to the story and presents a much more nuanced and sympathetic portrait of this complicated man.

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 ›
4 Comments 36 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback
Joel Shurkin, a science writer and author, has written this informative but hardly authoritative biography of William Shockley, a Nobel laureate and scientist whose accomplishments include:

- 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 ›
1 Comment 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was fascinated with this book on the early part that lead up to the development and creation of the silicon transistor. The operations research during the Second World War was also fascinating to me. A 1956 Nobel Laureate he could have lived peacefully later as he also was a tenured professor at Stanford University. He had what most people seek, all the money he needed to live comfortably, a good reputation later tarnished by himself and he chose not to live quietly in any way or mean. He never threw anything out, kept everything. His home was kept immaculate but his office and storage areas speak another language to this thought.

I had a real hard time getting through the last 1/3 of the book. Mostly due to the eugenics he later took up. William Shockley apparently enjoyed the media limelight and this contributed to his need to speak about the touchy subject that bordered on racism. If you are interested in the science, life, and accomplishments of Shockley then read the first 2/3's of the book; you could leave the last 1/3 by the way and avoid the complications of trying to get through it all. I would recommend this book but only first 2/3's. I'd provide a warning on the last 1/3.

The author did a commendable job in writing, researching, and setting objectivity throughout the biography of William Shockley.
1 Comment 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 all (e.g., Edwin Land) or receive incomplete mention (his son Bill). Also, Shurkin likes to insert his opinions into his writings when the subject matter doesn't call for it (for example, he refers to the music of the Kingston Trio as 'ersatz folk', as if that has anything to do with Shockley). He also has a strange way of passing judgment on Shockley but then not following through. For example, he will condemn Shockley for his racism, but then applaud how Shockley always remained consistent and impartial whenever dealing with his opponents. Shurkin also (rightly) does not hesitate to criticize Shockley's opponents (from Jerry Hirsch to Steven J. Gould). Finally, Shurkin himself admits that Shockley's positions have largely been vindicated through advances in genetics. So if Shockley was right all along, why does Shurkin condemn him to begin with? Still, this is a well-researched, enjoyable, and informative biography.
1 Comment 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age (Macmillan Science)
Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more about Amazon Giveaway
This item: Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age (Macmillan Science)