Photo of Robert N. Noyce

Robert N. Noyce

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Engineering
For contributions to a variety of semiconductor devices, but especially for the integrated circuit, the cornerstone of modern electronics.

Robert Noyce made a huge impact on California’s Silicon Valley even before it was commonly known by that name. Noyce, who held a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded and ran two of the companies that had the greatest impact on the region: Fairchild Semiconductors and Intel Corp.

At Fairchild, he co-invented the integrated circuit, a series of interconnecting transistors on the same chip that allowed for vastly greater data management in much smaller spaces. In 1968 he left Fairchild to co-found Intel, where he oversaw Ted Hoff’s invention of the microprocessor, which became the basis for the personal computer.

Both inventions revolutionized computer and semiconductor manufacturing and in Noyce the electronics industry — and Silicon Valley — had a tireless champion and spokesman. Noyce’s contributions earned him the nickname: “The Mayor of Silicon Valley.’’

Noyce pushed a relaxed, collaborative working style at the companies, eschewing most executive perks and instead allowing talented workers the freedom to flourish. That management style would be copied across Silicon Valley.

Noyce radiated a “halo effect’’ – a calm-inducing confidence that inspired those around him to push harder, Tom Wolfe noted in a 1983 profile in Esquire magazine.

At the time of his death in 1990, Noyce was president and chief executive of Sematech Inc., an Austin, Texas, research consortium created to help the U.S. computer industry compete with Japanese technology.

Joyce has the distinction of having received the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation, an uncommon feat that is testament to his world-changing success

By Robert Warren