Robert Noyce
Noyce in 1959
Robert Norton Noyce

(1927-12-12)December 12, 1927
DiedJune 3, 1990(1990-06-03) (aged 62)
Austin, Texas, U.S.
EducationGrinnell College (BA)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (PhD)
Known forCo-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel
(m. 1953; div. 1974)
(m. 1974)
AwardsFaraday Medal (1979)
Harold Pender Award (1980)
John Fritz Medal (1989)

Robert Norton Noyce (December 12, 1927 – June 3, 1990), nicknamed "the Mayor of Silicon Valley", was an American physicist and entrepreneur who co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957 and Intel Corporation in 1968. He was 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.[nb 1][1]

Early life

Noyce was born on December 12, 1927, in Burlington, Iowa[2][3][4][5][6] the third of four sons[4] of the Rev. Ralph Brewster Noyce.[7] His father graduated from Doane College, Oberlin College, and the Chicago Theological Seminary and was also nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship.[8]

His mother, Harriet May Norton, was the daughter of the Rev. Milton J. Norton, a Congregational clergyman, and Louise Hill. She was a graduate of Oberlin College and prior to her marriage, she had dreams of becoming a missionary.[9] Journalist Tom Wolfe described her as "an intelligent woman with a commanding will".[10]

Noyce had three siblings: Donald Sterling Noyce, Gaylord Brewster Noyce and Ralph Harold Noyce.[4][11] His brother Donald would go on to become a respected professor and associate dean of undergraduate affairs in the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry; Robert later created the Donald Sterling Noyce Prize to reward excellence in undergraduate teaching at Berkeley.[12] His brother Gaylord would go on to become a respected professor of practical theology and dean of students at Yale Divinity School; in 1961, while a young professor, he was arrested for being one of the Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement.[13]

Noyce's earliest childhood memory involved beating his father at ping pong and feeling shocked when his mother reacted to the news of his victory with a distracted "Wasn't that nice of Daddy to let you win?" Even at the age of five, Noyce felt offended by the notion of intentionally losing. "That's not the game", he sulked to his mother. "If you're going to play, play to win!"[11]

When Noyce was twelve years old in the summer of 1940, he and his brother built a boy-sized aircraft, which they used to fly from the roof of the Grinnell College stables. Later he built a radio from scratch and motorized his sled by welding a propeller and a motor from an old washing machine to the back of it.[14] His parents were both religious but Noyce became an agnostic and irreligious in later life.[15]


Noyce grew up in Grinnell, Iowa. While in high school, he exhibited a talent for mathematics and science and took the Grinnell College freshman physics course in his senior year. He graduated from Grinnell High School in 1945 and entered Grinnell College in the fall of that year. He was the star diver on the 1947 Midwest Conference Championship swim team.[10] While at Grinnell College, Noyce sang, played the oboe and acted. In Noyce's junior year, he got in trouble for stealing a 25-pound pig from the Grinnell mayor's farm and roasting it at a school luau. The mayor wrote to his parents stating that “In the agricultural state of Iowa, stealing a domestic animal is a felony which carries a minimum penalty of a year in prison and a fine of one dollar.” Noyce faced expulsion from school but Grant Gale, Noyce's physics professor and president of the college, did not want to lose a student with Noyce's potential. They compromised with the mayor so that Grinnell would compensate him for the pig, and suspend Noyce for one semester. He returned in February 1949.[16] He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in physics and mathematics in 1949. He also received a single honor from his classmates: the Brown Derby Prize, which recognized "the senior man who earned the best grades with the least amount of work".[17]

While Noyce was an undergraduate, he was fascinated by the field of physics and took a course in the subject that was taught by professor Grant Gale. Gale obtained two of the very first transistors ever produced by Bell Labs and showed them off to his class. Noyce was hooked.[10][18][19] Gale suggested that he apply to the doctoral program in physics at MIT, which he did.[20]

Noyce had a mind so quick that his graduate school friends called him "Rapid Robert".[21] He received his doctorate in physics from MIT in 1953.


Noyce and Gordon Moore in front of the Intel SC1 building in Santa Clara in 1970.

After graduating from MIT in 1953, Noyce took a job as a research engineer at the Philco Corporation in Philadelphia. He left in 1956 to join William Shockley, a co-inventor of the transistor and eventual Nobel Prize winner, at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory[22] in Mountain View, California.

Noyce left a year later with the "traitorous eight"[23] upon having issues with Shockley's management style, and co-founded the influential Fairchild Semiconductor corporation. According to Sherman Fairchild, Noyce's impassioned presentation of his vision was the reason Fairchild had agreed to create the semiconductor division for the traitorous eight.

After Jack Kilby invented the first hybrid integrated circuit (hybrid IC) in 1958,[24] Noyce in 1959 independently invented a new type of integrated circuit, the monolithic integrated circuit (monolithic IC).[25][26] It was more practical than Kilby's implementation. Noyce's design was made of silicon, whereas Kilby's chip was made of germanium. Noyce's invention was the first monolithic integrated circuit chip.[27] Unlike Kilby's IC which had external wire connections and could not be mass-produced, Noyce's monolithic IC chip put all components on a chip of silicon and connected them with copper lines.[26] The basis for Noyce's monolithic IC was the planar process, developed in early 1959 by Jean Hoerni.

Noyce and Gordon Moore founded Intel in 1968 when they left Fairchild Semiconductor.[21][28] Arthur Rock, the chairman of Intel's board and a major investor in the company, said that for Intel to succeed, the company needed Noyce, Moore and Andrew Grove. And it needed them in that order. Noyce: the visionary, born to inspire; Moore: the virtuoso of technology; and Grove: the technologist turned management scientist.[29] The relaxed culture that Noyce brought to Intel was a carry-over from his style at Fairchild Semiconductor. He treated employees as family, rewarding and encouraging teamwork. Noyce's management style could be called "roll up your sleeves". He shunned fancy corporate cars, reserved parking spaces, private jets, offices, and furnishings in favor of a less-structured, relaxed working environment in which everyone contributed and no one received lavish benefits. By declining the usual executive perks he stood as a model for future generations of Intel CEOs.

At Intel, he oversaw invention of the microprocessor as a concept by Ted Hoff and design of the first commercial microprocessor Intel 4004 by Federico Faggin, which was his second revolution.[30][31][32]

Personal life

In 1953, Noyce married Elizabeth Bottomley,[33] who was a 1951 graduate of Tufts University. While living in Los Altos, California they had four children: William B., Pendred, Priscilla, and Margaret. Elizabeth loved New England, so the family acquired a 50-acre coastal summer home in Bremen, Maine. Elizabeth and the children would summer there.[34] Robert would visit during the summer, but he continued working at Intel during the summer. They divorced in 1974.[35]

On November 27, 1974, Noyce married Ann Schmeltz Bowers. Bowers, a graduate of Cornell University,[36] also received an honorary Ph.D. from Santa Clara University, where she was a trustee for nearly 20 years. She was the first director of personnel for Intel Corporation and the first vice president of human resources for Apple Inc. She currently serves as chair of the board and the founding trustee of the Noyce Foundation.[37]

Noyce kept active his entire life. He enjoyed reading Hemingway, and he flew his own airplane and also participated in hang-gliding and scuba diving. Noyce believed that microelectronics would continue to advance in complexity and sophistication well beyond its current state; this led to the question of what use society would make of the technology. In his last interview, Noyce was asked what he would do if he were "emperor" of the United States. He said that he would, among other things, "...make sure we are preparing our next generation to flourish in a high-tech age. And that means education of the lowest and the poorest, as well as at the graduate school level."[38]


Noyce suffered a heart attack at age 62 at home on June 3, 1990, and later died at the Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas.[39]

Awards and honors

In July 1959, he filed for U.S. Patent 2,981,877 "Semiconductor Device and Lead Structure", a type of integrated circuit. This independent effort was recorded only a few months after the key findings of inventor Jack Kilby. For his co-invention of the integrated circuit and its world-transforming impact, three presidents of the United States honored him.

Noyce was a holder of many honors and awards. President Ronald Reagan awarded him the National Medal of Technology in 1987.[40] Two years later, he was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame sponsored by Junior Achievement,[41] during a black tie ceremony keynoted by President George H. W. Bush.[42] In 1990 Noyce – along with, among others, Jack Kilby and transistor inventor John Bardeen – received a "Lifetime Achievement Medal" during the bicentennial celebration of the Patent Act.

Noyce received the Franklin Institute's Stuart Ballantine Medal in 1966.[43] He was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1978 "for his contributions to the silicon integrated circuit, a cornerstone of modern electronics."[44][45] In 1979, he was awarded the National Medal of Science. He also received Faraday Medal in 1979. Noyce was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980.[46] The National Academy of Engineering awarded him its 1989 Charles Stark Draper Prize.[47]

The science building at his alma mater, Grinnell College, is named after him.

On December 12, 2011, Noyce was honored with a Google Doodle celebrating the 84th anniversary of his birth.[48]

In 2000, Kilby received the Nobel Prize in Physics; in his acceptance ("Nobel Lecture"), he mentions a small number of people whose work contributed to the success of integrated circuits, mentioning Noyce three times.[49]


The Noyce Foundation was founded in 1990 by his family. The foundation was dedicated to improving public education in mathematics and science in grades K-12.[37] The foundation announced that it would end operations in 2015.[50]

In 1990, Congress established the Robert Noyce National Math and Science Teachers Corps Act which authorizes awards up to 5,000 scholarships annually to assist individuals in obtaining a teaching degree.[51] These awards are granted to institutions of higher education who administer the projects after successful proposal submissions through the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program ("Noyce").[52] Pre-service teachers are recruited by their college/university and must be STEM majors. Scholarship recipients to agree to teach science or mathematics in a high-need school districts for at least two years for each fiscal year the recipient received such a scholarship. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) works with the NSF Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to identify and disseminate information about effective practices and strategies for attracting, selecting, and preparing new K-12 STEM teachers and retaining them in the STEM teacher workforce.[53]


Noyce was granted 15 patents. Patents are listed in order issued, not filed.

Note: In 1960 Clevite Corporation acquired Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, a subsidiary of Beckman Instruments, for whom Noyce worked.[54]


  1. ^ While Kilby's invention was six months earlier, neither man rejected the title of co-inventor.


  1. ^ Lécuyer, p. 129
  2. ^ Jones, 86
  3. ^ Jones, 142
  4. ^ a b c Berlin, p. 10
  5. ^ Burt, 71
  6. ^ Welles Gaylord, p. 130
  7. ^ Jones, p. 625
  8. ^ Berlin, p. 14
  9. ^ Berlin, p. 9
  10. ^ a b c Wolfe, Tom (December 1983). "The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce". Esquire Magazine: 346–74. Archived from the original on February 27, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  11. ^ a b Berlin, p. 12
  12. ^ Subramanian, Yvette (November 8, 2004). "Donald Noyce, professor emeritus of chemistry, dies at age 81". UC Berkeley News (Press release). Berkeley, CA. Retrieved May 8, 2009.
  13. ^ "Prof. Gaylord Noyce Dies at 83". Yale Divinity School. August 13, 2009. Archived from the original on August 18, 2009. Retrieved October 29, 2009.
  14. ^ Berlin, p. 7
  15. ^ Leslie Berlin (2005). The Man Behind The Microchip: Robert Noyce And The Invention Of Silicon Valley. Oxford University Press. p. 235. ISBN 9780195163438. The minister, who had hidden himself in a closet, stepped forward to marry the couple in a ceremony from which Bowers had excised every reference to God. "Bob agreed to that. Neither of us could decide about God," Bowers says. "I remember Bob saying, 'Some people who believe in God are good, and some people who believe in God are not good. So where does that leave you?' He had [also] looked around and decided that religion is responsible for a lot of trouble in the world." Noyce, always pushing against the limits of accepted knowledge, told Bowers that what bothered him most about organized religions was that "people don't think in churches."
  16. ^ Berlin, Leslie. "Adrenaline and Gasoline." The Man behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. 22–23. Print.
  17. ^ Berlin, p. 27
  18. ^ Berlin, p. 22
  19. ^ Berlin, p. 24
  20. ^ Berlin, p. 106
  21. ^ a b Berlin, p. 1
  22. ^ Shurkin, p. 170
  23. ^ Shurkin, p. 181
  24. ^ Saxena, Arjun N. (2009). Invention of Integrated Circuits: Untold Important Facts. World Scientific. p. 140. ISBN 9789812814456.
  25. ^ "1959: Practical Monolithic Integrated Circuit Concept Patented". Computer History Museum. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  26. ^ a b "Integrated circuits". NASA. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  27. ^ "1959: Practical Monolithic Integrated Circuit Concept Patented". Computer History Museum. Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  28. ^ Shurkin, p. 184
  29. ^ Tedlow, p. 405
  30. ^ Creation of Microprocessor (February 19, 2014). "Interview with Gordon Moore on First Microprocessor". YouTube. Archived from the original on May 8, 2017. Retrieved January 2, 2017.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  31. ^ One-time Intel CEO Andy Grove on the other hand, believed in maximizing the productivity of his employees, and he and the company became known for his guiding motto: "Only the paranoid survive". He was notorious for his directness in finding fault and would question his colleagues so intensely as occasionally to border on intimidation.
  32. ^ Garten, Jeffrey E. (April 11, 2005). "Andy Grove Made The Elephant Dance". Bloomberg. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  33. ^ Thomas, Robert Meg. Jr. (September 20, 1996). "Elizabeth B. Noyce, 65, Benefactor of Maine With Vast Settlement From Her Divorce". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  34. ^ Berlin, Leslie (2005). The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516343-8., pp. [page needed]
  35. ^ Berlin, Leslie (2005). The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 200–204. ISBN 0195163435. OCLC 57201649.
  36. ^ "Class notes 1950-1959". Cornell Alumni Magazine. September–October 2007. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  37. ^ a b "Noyce Foundation: About Us". Archived from the original on December 25, 2011. Retrieved January 2, 2012.
  38. ^ Murty, K. Krishna (2005). Spice In Science. Pustak Mahal. p. 192. ISBN 978-81-223-0900-3. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  39. ^ Hays, Constance L. (June 4, 1990). "An Inventor of the Microchip, Robert N. Noyce, Dies at 62". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  40. ^ "The National Medal of Technology and Innovation Recipients – 1987". United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  41. ^ "U.S. Business Hall of Fame – Robert N. Noyce". Junior Achievement. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  42. ^ "President Bush to honor Noyce and other laureates at U.S. Business Hall of Fame induction ceremony tonight in Colorado Springs". PR Newswire. March 16, 1989. Retrieved January 4, 2012.[dead link]
  43. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database – Stuart Ballantine Medal 1966 Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on December 10, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  44. ^ "IEEE Medal of Honor Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  45. ^ "Robert Noyce". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Archived from the original on December 20, 2008. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  46. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter N" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  47. ^ "Recipients of The Charles Stark Draper Prize". National Academy of Engineering. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  48. ^ Cavna, Michael (December 12, 2011). "Robert Noyce Google Doodle: Logo conducts tribute to Intel co-founder and 'mayor of Silicon Valley'". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  49. ^ Kilby, Jack S. (December 8, 2008). "Turning Potential Into Realities: The Invention of the Integrated Circuit". 2000 Nobel Lectures. Nobel Foundation: 481–482. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  50. ^ "Featured News: Noyce Foundation to Sunset in 2015". Noyce Foundation. July 22, 2015. Archived from the original on July 23, 2015. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  51. ^ Levine, Mel (July 11, 1990). "H.R.5248 – 101st Congress (1989–1990): Robert Noyce National Math and Science Teachers Corps Act". Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  52. ^ "Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program (nsf21578) | NSF – National Science Foundation". Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  53. ^ "The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program". Retrieved July 15, 2021.
  54. ^ "Clevite Corp. Acquires Shockley Transistor Corp". Electronic Design. April 27, 1960. Retrieved February 22, 2019.


Further reading

Business positions Preceded byCompany founded CEO, Intel 1968–1975 Succeeded byGordon Moore