David A. McLean

David A. McLean
David A. McLean
Golden, CO, USA
Associated organizations
Bell Labs
IEEE Mervin J. Kelly Award


David A. McLean was born July 15, 1905, in Golden, Colorado. In 1929 he was granted the degree of Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering by the University of Colorado. He then joined the staff of the Bell Telephone Laboratories Chemical Research Department. After a number of years of work on general materials physics, he became particularly interested in the specific field of dielectrics and their applications. This interest led naturally to development work on capacitors and thence to other passive components.

Early in his career, his efforts in a large part made it possible for the expanding capacitor industry to convert from scarce linen rag paper to readily available kraft paper as a capacitor dielectric. He was also responsible for developing the concept of highly accelerated testing of dielectric films for quality control purposes. Of particular importance for military use during World War II, his discovery of chemical stabilizers for halogenated organic dielectrics made the use of compact capacitors using these materials feasible for wide range of ambient field conditions. Under his direction, the processing parameters and properties of metallized paper capacitors were characterized and the evaporated metal electrode concept was adapted to include plastic and lacquer film dielectrics. The tantalum solid capacitor was taken from a research status through material and processing studies to the establishment of industry wide standards largely under his direction. He has also been responsible for the development of unique, high reliability components which have been employed in transistorized submarine cable systems and in the TELSTAR satellite.

In recent years he has pioneered the development of hybrid integrated circuits and tantalum thin film passive components. This work has been rewarded by numerous patents and by international recognition as an inventor and an outstanding technical leader. This effort has been a major contributor to the success of integrated electronics in modern telecommunications.

He holds 28 patents and has written over 40 papers in various fields. He has been an advisor to the United States Signal Corps in several areas related to components.

In 1956 Mr. McLean received the Miniaturization Award for the concept of tantalum microcircuitry. He delivered the 1966 John B. Whitehead Memorial Lecture at the invitation of the Conference on Electrical Insulation, National Academy of Sciences. He has given many invited papers and lectures in both Europe and Japan. He was a Fellow of the IEEE and the American Institute of Chemists, and a member of the American Chemical Society, the Electrochemical Society, the American Vacuum Society and several honorary and professional societies.

For many years Mr. McLean and his wife, Emily, have enjoyed their leisure time at a summer cottage, on a New Jersey lake, which they constructed. They enjoyed boating, fishing, and gardening with a particular interest in azaleas and similar flowering shrubs. They had two children; a son, Terry, who is served in the United States Armed Forces in Vietnam, and a daughter, Emily Sue, who lived in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and their four children.

Since his retirement in August, 1970, after 41 years of service with Bell Laboratories, Mr. McLean had spent considerable time in writing technical articles, consulting, and in enjoying his various hobbies.