Richard Hodgson was an engineer and executive in the radar and television industries whose leadership at Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation in the 1950s guided the development of the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley.
Hodgson was born in a mining camp in Anyox, British Columbia, in 1917. His family later moved to Denver, Colorado, and Palo Alto, California. He received a degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University in 1937 and a master’s in business administration from Harvard University in 1939.
His first position was as a refining engineer at Standard Oil of California. In 1941, he became an aircraft design engineer at Lockheed. During World War II, he worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s radiation laboratory, researching microwave radar systems. In 1946, he joined the Atomic Energy Commission as director of engineering management. He developed plans for nuclear reactors and instrument systems.
In 1947, he worked with Ernest Lawrence at a laboratory that created and licensed the technology behind the Trinitron color television monitor to Sony Corporation. Trinitron broke from the standard pioneered by RCA by using a cylindrical rather than a spherical faceplate.
From 1950 until 1968, Hodgson worked at Fairchild Camera and Instrument, rising to the position of chief executive. In 1957, he supervised the creation of Fairchild’s semiconductor division. His boss, Sherman Fairchild, decided to back a group of scientists and engineers from Shockley Semiconductor, including Robert Noyce, who had already reached out to thirty other companies for financing. Under Hodgson’s oversight, Fairchild Semiconductor developed the semiconductor integrated circuit, which he named the Planar. It powered federal weapons and space programs and, eventually, computers and industrial machinery.
In 1968, he became a senior vice president of ITT Corporation, retiring in 1980.
Richard Hodgson, Oral History, Sept. 19, 1995.