Jean Hoerni was born in Geneva, and earned a B.S. and his first Ph.D. in physics from the University of Geneva. After earning his second Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1952, he became a research fellow with Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., USA.
At Shockley Semiconductor Laboratories in Palo Alto, Calif., he worked on the first transistor with William Shockley. With seven other scientists he founded Fairchild Semiconductor where he devised a "planar process" which flattened transistors.
In 1961 he left Fairchild to become vice president of the newly formed semiconductor division of Teledyne. He was an independent consultant for: Union Carbide, Hughes Aircraft and Fujitsu before he founded Intersil in 1967. The company was later purchased by General Electric.
Hoerni was dedicated to helping the Balti people, Muslim tribes of Tibetan origin in a remote region of the Himalayas. He established a US$1 million endowment to help deliver educational and healthcare services to the people there.
Hoerni died on January 12th, 1997.