Gordon E. Moore

Intel founder Gordon Moore remembers the development of the transistor and the birth of Silicon Valley. This video is part of CHF’s hour-long documentary Scientists You Must Know.

Imagining life today without silicon microchips would be quite a feat: of course they are in our computers, but they are also in our phones, televisions, cars, microwaves, and virtually all of our digital devices. We use them every day, but where do they come from? To understand the humble beginnings of this amazing piece of technology, one should consult Gordon E. Moore. He would know better than most since he helped invent them.

Moore was born in 1929 near San Francisco. Inspired by his early love for chemistry sets, Moore focused on chemistry as a high-school student, eventually majoring in the subject at the University of California, Berkeley, and going on to earn his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at California Institute of Technology. He then spent two years completing his postdoctoral research at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.

Moore took a position at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory division of Beckman Instruments, where he worked for a year until his career took off in an interesting way. In a bold move Moore left Beckman Instruments with the so-called traitorous eight and helped found Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. Here Moore began his life-changing work on what would eventually become silicon microchips. Moore realized that in order to produce cost-effective microchips the chemical technology behind them had to be improved and that this technology would develop rapidly. He hypothesized that microchips would double in complexity every two years, and this realization is now referred to as Moore’s law.

In 1968 Moore left Fairchild and cofounded NM Electronics with Robert Noyce. Their company evolved into the Intel Corporation, which is now the world’s largest and highest-valued semiconductor chip maker, with Moore as its longest-serving CEO. He has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the National Medal of Technology, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Othmer Gold Medal, and the Perkin Medal.

With his wife, Moore has endowed the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which works to develop outcome-based projects under the categories of environmental conservation, patient care, science, and conservation and museum support in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through his philanthropy and service to multiple academies, universities, and organizations, Moore continues to remain on the forefront of scientific research and technology.

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