Jean Hoerni

Last updated

Jean Amédée Hoerni (September 26, 1924 – January 12, 1997) was a Swiss-American engineer. He was a silicon transistor pioneer, and a member of the "traitorous eight". He developed the planar process, an important technology for reliably fabricating and manufacturing semiconductor devices, such as transistors and integrated circuits.



Hoerni was born on September 26, 1924 in Geneva, Switzerland. [1] He received his B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Geneva and two Ph.D.s in Physics; one from the University of Geneva and the other from the University of Cambridge. [2]

In 1952, he moved to the United States to work at the California Institute of Technology, where he became acquainted with William Shockley, a physicist at Bell Labs who was intimately involved with the creation of the transistor.

A few years later, Shockley recruited Hoerni to work with him at the newly founded Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory division of Beckman Instruments in Mountain View, California. But Shockley's strange behavior compelled the so-called "traitorous eight": Hoerni, Julius Blank, Victor Grinich, Eugene Kleiner, Jay Last, Gordon Moore, Robert Noyce and Sheldon Roberts, to leave his laboratory and create the Fairchild Semiconductor corporation.

In 1958, Hoerni attended an Electrochemical Society meeting, where Bell Labs engineer Mohamed Atalla presented a paper about the passivation of p-n junctions by oxide, [3] and demonstrated silicon dioxide's passivating effect on a silicon surface. [4] Hoerni was intrigued, and came up with the concept of planar technology one morning while thinking about Atalla's device. [3] Taking advantage of silicon dioxide's passivating effect on the silicon surface, Hoerni proposed to make transistors that were protected by a layer of silicon dioxide. [3]

The planar process was invented by Jean Hoerni, with his first patent filed in May 1959. [5] [6] The planar process was critical in the invention of Silicon Integrated circuit by Robert Noyce. [7] Noyce built on Hoerni's work with his conception of an integrated circuit, which added a layer of metal to the top of Hoerni's basic structure to connect different components, such as transistors, capacitors, or resistors, located on the same piece of silicon. The planar process provided a powerful way of implementing an integrated circuit that was superior to earlier conceptions of the device. [4] With Noyce, Jack Kilby from Texas Instruments is usually credited with the invention of the integrated circuit, but Kilby's IC was based on Germanium. As it turns out, Silicon ICs have numerous advantages over germanium. The name "Silicon Valley" refers to this silicon. [8]

Along with the "traitorous eight" alumni Jay Last and Sheldon Roberts, Hoerni founded Amelco (known now as Teledyne) in 1961.

In 1964, he founded Union Carbide Electronics, and in 1967, he founded Intersil, where he became a pioneer of low-voltage CMOS-Integrated Circuits.

He was awarded the Edward Longstreth Medal from the Franklin Institute in 1969 [9] and the McDowell Award in 1972. [1]

Hoerni died of myelofibrosis on January 12, 1997 in Seattle, Washington. [10] [11] He was 72.

Personal life

He was married to Anne Marie Hoerni and had three children: Annie Blackwell, Susan Killham, and Michael Hoerni. He had one brother, Marc Hoerni. [11] His second marriage to Ruth Carmona also ended in divorce. [12]


An avid mountain climber, Hoerni often visited the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan and was moved by the poverty of the Balti mountain people who lived there. He contributed the lion's share, $30,000, to Greg Mortenson's project to build a school in the remote village of Korphe, and later founded the Central Asia Institute with an endowment of $1 million to continue providing services for them after his death. [13] [14] Hoerni named Greg Mortenson as the first Executive Director of the organization, which continues to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. [15]

In December 2007, an article was published by Michael Riordan on Hoerni and his planar process in IEEE Spectrum . The author claimed that Jay Last pointed out that Hoerni had incredible stamina and could hike for hours on little food or water. [10]

Related Research Articles

Integrated circuit electronic circuit manufactured by lithography; set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, normally silicon

An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material that is normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny MOS transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, faster, and less expensive than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability, and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.

Robert Noyce American businessman and engineer

Robert Norton Noyce, nicknamed "the Mayor of Silicon Valley," was an American physicist who co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel Corporation in 1968. He is also credited with the realization of the first monolithic integrated circuit or microchip, which fueled the personal computer revolution and gave Silicon Valley its name.

Passivation, in physical chemistry and engineering, refers to a material becoming "passive," that is, less affected or corroded by the environment of future use. Passivation involves creation of an outer layer of shield material that is applied as a microcoating, created by chemical reaction with the base material, or allowed to build from spontaneous oxidation in the air. As a technique, passivation is the use of a light coat of a protective material, such as metal oxide, to create a shell against corrosion. Passivation can occur only in certain conditions, and is used in microelectronics to enhance silicon. The technique of passivation strengthens and preserves the appearance of metallics. In electrochemical treatment of water, passivation reduces the effectiveness of the treatment by increasing the circuit resistance, and active measures are typically used to overcome this effect, the most common being polarity reversal, which results in limited rejection of the fouling layer. Other proprietary systems to avoid electrode passivation, several discussed below, are the subject of ongoing research and development.

Fairchild Semiconductor American company

Fairchild Semiconductor International, Inc. was an American semiconductor company based in San Jose, California. Founded in 1957 as a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument, it became a pioneer in the manufacturing of transistors and of integrated circuits. Schlumberger bought the firm in 1979 and sold it to National Semiconductor in 1987; Fairchild was spun off as an independent company again in 1997. In September 2016, Fairchild was acquired by ON Semiconductor.

Traitorous eight Group of Shockley Semiconductor employees who left to found Fairchild Semiconductor

The traitorous eight was a group of eight employees who left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in 1957 to found Fairchild Semiconductor. William Shockley had in 1956 recruited a group of young PhD graduates with the goal to develop and produce new semiconductor devices. While Shockley had received a Nobel Prize in Physics and was an experienced researcher and teacher, his management of the group was authoritarian and unpopular. This was accentuated by Shockley's research focus not proving fruitful. After the demand for Shockley to be replaced was rebuffed, the eight left to form their own company.

Jay T. Last is a physicist, silicon pioneer, and member of the so-called "traitorous eight" that founded Silicon Valley.

Dr. Frank Marion Wanlass was an American electrical engineer. He is best known for inventing CMOS logic with Chih-Tang Sah in 1963. CMOS has since become the standard semiconductor device fabrication process for MOSFETs.

Planar process

The planar process is a manufacturing process used in the semiconductor industry to build individual components of a transistor, and in turn, connect those transistors together. It is the primary process by which silicon integrated circuit chips are built. The process utilizes the surface passivation and thermal oxidation methods.

Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory laboratory

Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory was a pioneering semiconductor developer founded by William Shockley as a division of Beckman Instruments, Inc., in 1956. It was the first high technology company in what came to be known as Silicon Valley to work on silicon-based semiconductor devices.

p–n junction isolation is a method used to electrically isolate electronic components, such as transistors, on an integrated circuit (IC) by surrounding the components with reverse biased p–n junctions.

John Haslett Hall was a pioneer in the development of low power CMOS integrated circuits. Hall was a pioneering semiconductor process and device design expert. He founded or co-founded multiple innovative Silicon Valley companies, including Intersil, MicroPower Systems, Linear Integrated Systems, Inc., and Integrated Wave Technologies, Inc.

A diffused junction transistor is a transistor formed by diffusing dopants into a semiconductor substrate. The diffusion process was developed later than the alloy junction and grown junction processes for making BJTs.

A transistor is a semiconductor device with at least three terminals for connection to an electric circuit. The vacuum-tube triode, also called a (thermionic) valve, was the transistor's precursor, introduced in 1907. The principle of a field-effect transistor was proposed by Julius Edgar Lilienfeld in 1925.

Chih-Tang "Tom" Sah is a Chinese-American engineer. He is best known for inventing CMOS logic with Frank Wanlass at Fairchild Semiconductor in 1963. CMOS is now used in nearly all modern very large-scale integration (VLSI) semiconductor devices.

FET amplifier

A FET amplifier is an amplifier that uses one or more field-effect transistors (FETs). The most common type of FET amplifier is the MOSFET amplifier, which uses metal–oxide–semiconductor FETs (MOSFETs). The main advantage of a FET used for amplification is that it has very high input impedance and low output impedance.

This article details the history of electronic engineering. Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (1972) defines electronics as "The science and technology of the conduction of electricity in a vacuum, a gas, or a semiconductor, and devices based thereon".

The integrated circuit (IC) chip was invented during 1958–1959. The idea of integrating electronic circuits into a single device was born when the German physicist and engineer Werner Jacobi developed and patented the first known integrated transistor amplifier in 1949 and the British radio engineer Geoffrey Dummer proposed to integrate a variety of standard electronic components in a monolithic semiconductor crystal in 1952. A year later, Harwick Johnson filed a patent for a prototype IC. Between 1953 and 1957, Sidney Darlington and Yasuro Tarui proposed similar chip designs where several transistors could share a common active area, but there was no electrical isolation to separate them from each other.

Dawon Kahng South Korean engineer

Dawon Kahng was a Korean-American electrical engineer and inventor, known for his work in solid-state electronics. He is best known for inventing the MOSFET, also known as the MOS transistor, with Mohamed Atalla in 1959. Atalla and Kahng developed both the PMOS and NMOS processes for MOSFET semiconductor device fabrication. The MOSFET is the most widely used type of transistor, and the basic element in most modern electronic equipment.

Mohamed M. Atalla mechanical engineer

Mohamed Mohamed Atalla was an Egyptian–American engineer, physical chemist, cryptographer, inventor and entrepreneur. His pioneering work in semiconductor technology laid the foundations for modern electronics. Most importantly, his invention of the MOSFET in 1959, along with his earlier surface passivation and thermal oxidation processes, revolutionized the electronics industry. He is also known as the founder of the data security company Atalla Corporation, founded in 1972, which introduced the first hardware security module and was a pioneer in online security. He received the Stuart Ballantine Medal and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his important contributions to semiconductor technology as well as data security.

Bernard A Yurash was a significant contributor to the creation of the first commercially viable CMOS integrated circuits by finding the sources of mobile sodium ions coming from the manufacturing process. Today, virtually all digital electronics use CMOS circuitry. Bernard worked at Fairchild Semiconductor in Silicon Valley from 1958, through the buyouts of the company by Schlumberger and National Semiconductor, and finally retiring in 1990. In the 1960s Fairchild Semiconductor, a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp., and Texas Instruments, revolutionized electronics by employing the first integrated circuit technology. Fairchild's Robert Noyce filed for this patent using deposited (printed) metal lines and Jean Hoerni's Planar Process. At the time virtually all the devices were of the bipolar type which were used to construct RTL and DTL type circuits, which unfortunately drew more power than was desired, and eventually lost ground to Texas Instruments' TTL (Transistor-Transistor-logic). The next great technological leap in computer chips would be CMOS transistors, which promised significantly lower power and greater circuit density than the Bipolar circuitry. Although Frank Wanlass first filed for the CMOS patent in 1963, Fairchild could not produce the devices for commercial output for many years because of the mystery of the mobile ions degrading their performance. Much research time and money was expended in 1967 and 1968 at Fairchild on trying to manufacture the highly promising technology, the MOS SGT circuits utilizing the field effect from the "gate" on the conducting "channel" from source to drain.


  1. 1 2 "Jean A. Hoerni - 1972 W. Wallace McDowell Award Recipient". Archived from the original on 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
  2. Brock, David, C. (2006). Understanding Moore's Law: Four Decades of Innovation. Pittsford, New York: Castle Rock. p. 15. ISBN   0941901416.
  3. 1 2 3 Lojek, Bo (2007). History of Semiconductor Engineering. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 120. ISBN   9783540342588.
  4. 1 2 Bassett, Ross Knox (2007). To the Digital Age: Research Labs, Start-up Companies, and the Rise of MOS Technology. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 46. ISBN   9780801886393.
  5. US 3025589 Hoerni, J. A.: "Method of Manufacturing Semiconductor Devices” filed May 1, 1959
  6. US 3064167 Hoerni, J. A.: "Semiconductor device" filed May 15, 1960
  7. "The Accidental Entrepreneur" [ permanent dead link ], Gordon E. Moore, Engineering & Science, Summer 1994
  8. "Jean Hoerni (American engineer)", Encyclopædia Britannicaonline
  9. "Franklin Laureate Database - Edward Longstreth Medal 1969 Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  10. 1 2 Michael, Riordan (December 2007). "The Silicon Dioxide Solution: How physicist Jean Hoerni built the bridge from the transistor to the integrated circuit". IEEE Spectrum. IEEE. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  11. 1 2 "Jean A. Hoerni". February 5, 1997. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  12. Internet, OSD, inc./ Bitterroot. "Montana News-The Bitterroot Star - The Bitterroot Valley's Weekly Newspaper". Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  13. Three Cups of Tea, chapter 5. (disk 2, tracks 16-18 of the audiobook version)
  14. "A gift for an entire village-- A failed mountaineer becomes a philanthropist after a village without a school saves his life" Archived 2008-04-05 at the Wayback Machine , Marilyn Gardner, Christian Science Monitor, September 12, 2006
  15. "Central Asia Institute History" Archived 2014-12-24 at the Wayback Machine , Central Asia Institute