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Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age (Macmillan Science) Paperback – January 8, 2008
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'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
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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 ›
- 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 ›
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.
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 9 months ago by J. P.
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 on August 4, 2014 by Happy Ho
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
Who has been the most influential person in history?.... Typical answers to this question are Einstein, Newton, Guttenberg, Gates, Jobs....etc...etc...etc.... Read morePublished on May 11, 2009 by Ricardo R. Gonzalez
The winners write the history, and the history of Silicon Valley is no exception. Until this book William Shockley, if he was known at all, was thought of as the eccentric Nobel... Read morePublished on October 31, 2007 by Tech Historian