Morris Tanenbaum


Morris Tanenbaum
Death date
Associated organizations
Bell Labs
Fields of study
Transistors, Superconductivity


Morris Tanenbaum, an IEEE Fellow, Bell Labs chemist, and New Jersey Bell and AT&T executive (10 November 1928 - 26 February 2023), is known for making one of the world's first silicon transistor in 1955. He invented silicon transistors (as opposed to Germanium) and is famous for being the person who made transistors feasible and reliable, as well as developing practical methods for manufacturing them efficiently.

Tanenbaum received his Bachelors in chemistry from John Hopkins (1949) and his Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Princeton. He began work at Bell Laboratories in 1952, in the Chemical Physics Department. He worked on the chemical composition of transistors. Around 1954, at William Shockley’s prompting, he began work on silicon crystals as possible transistors. With the invaluable collaboration of the technician Ernie Buehler, he developed one of the world’s first silicon transistors in January 1955. Gordon Teal and Texas Instruments developed a similar device in parallel. The same year he invented a diffused base silicon transistor. While Bell Labs had a significant technological lead in silicon transistor technology, they stopped doing proper research in the field, partly due to relevancy to AT&T’s business interests. As a result, silicon transistor technology, including the integrated circuit, was further developed by Intel and Texas Instruments.

Around 1960, Tanenbaum, Buehler, and other engineers such as Gene Kunzler, Berndt Matthias, and Rudy Kompfner, invented the first high field superconducting magnets. Tanenbaum later moved into research management, first at Bell Labs, and then elsewhere within the AT&T umbrella as head of the new Western Electric Engineering Research Center. He later transitioned to mainline telephone company management, serving as President of New Jersey Bell in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He returned to AT&T at the break up of the Bell System in 1984, serving as President of AT&T Communications. He retired in 1989 as Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer of AT&T.

Further Reading

Morris Tanenbaum oral history

James Goldey, William Hittinger and Morris Tanenbaum oral history

Serendipity and Superconducting Magnets

Beginning of the Silicon Age