William Shockley

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I am overwhelmed by an irresistible temptation to do my climb by moonlight and unroped.

William Shockley (February 13, 1910August 12, 1989) was a physicist, and co-inventor of the transistor. Later in life, he attracted controversy for his views on race issues and eugenics.


  • My research leads me inescapably to the opinion that the major cause of the American Negro's intellectual and social deficits is hereditary and racial genetic in origin and thus not remediable to a major degree by practical improvements in environment.
    • Interview with Black journal.
  • I am overwhelmed by an irresistible temptation to do my climb by moonlight and unroped. This is contrary to all my rock climbing teaching & does not mean poor training, but only a strong-headedness.
    • Memo to himself in 1947, regarding work on the transistor, as quoted in Broken Genius : The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age (2006) by Joel N. Shurkin, Ch. 7, p. 125.
  • I had one experience which gave me some slant on the way large organizations run. I was not allowed to take spherical trigonometry because I'd sprained my ankle. Because I'd sprained my ankle I had an incomplete in gym, phys ed. And the rule was that if you had an incomplete in anything, you were not allowed to take an overload. I argued with some clerical person in the administration office, and was stopped there. It's an experience which I've remembered since, and advised people not to be stopped at the first point.
  • If you take a bale of hay and tie it to the tail of a mule and then strike a match and set the bale of hay on fire, and if you then compare the energy expended shortly thereafter by the mule with the energy expended by yourself in the striking of the match, you will understand the concept of amplification.
    • As quoted in The Chip War : The Battle for the World of Tomorrow (1989) by Fred Warshofsky, p. 21.
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