Photo of Robert H. Dennard

Robert H. Dennard

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Computer Science

For invention of the basic one-transistor dynamic memory cell used worldwide in virtually all modern computers.

During his career at IBM, Robert H. Dennard played a key role in groundbreaking innovations of the microelectronics industry. In the mid-1960s, random access memory (RAM) required an elaborate system of wires and magnets that was bulky and power hungry.

Dennard’s revolutionary achievement was to reduce RAM to a memory cell with only a single transistor. Dennard’s invention led the way to readily available, inexpensive, high-density memory that transformed the computing industry. The ultimate effect of his achievement was that a single chip can hold a billion or more RAM cells in modern computers.

Dennard was also among the first to recognize the tremendous potential of downsizing a semiconductor, MOSFETs. His theory describes how voltage, capacitance, power and other quantities change as transistors become smaller. Dennard’s scaling theory he and his colleagues formulated in 1974 has continued to influence the evolution of microelectronics over the last few decades.

By Jen Santisi