Morris Tanenbaum

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See Morris Tanenbaum's Oral-History

Morris Tanenbaum was born on November 10th, 1928, and as of writing is 91 years old (2019). He is most famous for making the world's first silicon transistor in 1955.

Tanenbaum received his Bachelors in chemistry from John Hopkins (1949) and his PhD 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. Ca. 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 made the world’s first silicon transistor in January 1955. (He notes the competing claims of Gordon Teal and Texas Instruments, but believes, and provides evidence for his belief, that his work predated theirs by several months.) The same year he invented the first diffused base silicon transistor. Then, although Bell Labs had a significant technological lead in silicon transistor technology, they stopped doing proper research in the field—partly because it just wasn’t immediately relevant to AT&T’s business—so silicon transistor technology, including the integrated circuit, was done by Intel and Texas Instruments Instead. Around 1960, Tanenbaum, Buehler, and other scientists 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 Elrectric Engineering Research Center. He then moved into mainline telepone company managagement, 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 Communicatins. He retired in 1989 as Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer of AT&T.