John B. Gunn

John B. Gunn
John B. Gunn
Cairo, Egypt
Death date
Associated organizations
Fields of study
IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award


John Battiscombe Gunn, known as "J.B." to associates and "Ian" or "Iain" Gunn to friends, was a British physicist recognized widely for discovering the Gunn Effect in 1963. This discovery led to the invention of the Gunn Diode, which was a miniature microwave generator. It was the first inexpensive source of microwave power and it did not require the use of vacuum tubes. Gunn received the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Award in 1969 "For contributions to solid state microwave power generation."

Gunn was born on May 13, 1928 in Cairo, Egypt. He received his bachelor's degree from Trinity College in Cambridge in 1948, and began working at the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern. In 1956 Gunn joined the faculty of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where he was an Assistant Professor of Physics. Three years later, he moved to the United States and joined IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Gunn was named an IBM Fellow in 1971, and he remained with the corporation until he retired in 1990.

After becoming an IBM Fellow, Gunn's interests shifted outside of the field of semiconductor physics. Throughout the seventies and eighties his work focused on developing APL computer models, improving the design and reliability of computer disk drives, and investigating multi-valued logic.

Gunn was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an IEEE Fellow. In addition to the Liebmann Award, he received the Valdemar Poulsen Medal from the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and the 1971 John Scott Award from the City of Philadelphia.

Outside of his work, Gunn was an avid motorcyclist. He began riding motorcycles in 1945, while living in Cambridge. In 1950, he began his fifty-year racing career. He took a brief break from racing while working at the Royal Radar Establishment, but continued to ride. Gunn passed away on December 2, 2008 at his home in Mt. Kisco, New York. The cause of death was colon cancer.