Dr. Robert N. Hall


Historic Note


Over a 45 year career at General Electric (from July 1942 until retirement in 1987)  Dr. Robert Hall worked at the Research Labs in Schenectady, NY, with a brief time away in 1947/48 to earn a PhD in Physics from Caltech. His contributions to semiconductor research are numerous, including 43 U.S. patents and literally hundreds of technical papers.  This Oral History, taken in Sept 2000, concentrates on Dr. Hall’s work in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, which was related to early semiconductor development. 




This is a photo from the August 1955 issue of Radio and Television News, in an article entitled “Improved Transistors Announced by GE”. The photo caption is: ”Dr. Robert N. Hall, left, who has devised a new method of growing the tiny crystal hearts of transistors from thin wires of silicon, demonstrates the equipment to R.I. Scace, another GE scientist. The transistors made by the new “meltback” process can be used in TV, radar, shortwave radio, and other devices where high frequencies are used….” In the article, Dr. Hall is identified as the young GE scientist also responsible for the well known “rate-growing” process for making junction transistors.




Oral History – Robert Hall


I started at GE as a test engineer in July 1942, but left in Jan 1946 to work on a PhD.  I returned to GE in 1948, with a newly earned PhD in Physics from Caltech, just as BTL announced the transistor.  As a member of the staff, I was asked to look into transistor technology and I joined a team already working on germanium diodes.  Reproducibility was a big problem so I started a purification process to try to clean up the initial material.  After a false start or two, I developed a purification process based on fractional crystallization and discovered the alloying method of making junction diodes, and then used this process to make alloy junction transistors in cooperation with John Saby at the GE E-Labs in Syracuse.  This crystallization process yielded ingots of intrinsic germanium which had never been achieved before.  In the process I measured distribution coefficients of a number of key impurities.  I was also studying the Czochralski method of growing germanium crystals, made some double-doped transistors and then invented the “rate-growing” method of making transistors.  Rate-grown transistors were manufactured by GE at Syracuse using this process.




Go To Hall Oral History, Page 2



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