EARLY TRANSISTOR HISTORY AT RCA

C. Frank Wheatley

 

Historic Note

 

Over a 36 year career at RCA, from July 1951 until retirement in 1987, Frank Wheatley was responsible for a number of “firsts” in the area of semiconductor research – his contributions are numerous, including 58 U.S. patents granted and additional patents currently pending.  In addition, he has presented 57 professional papers and published an additional 91 papers over the span of six decades.   His most productive patent is the U.S. Letters Patent No. 4,364,073, entitled “Power MOSFET with an Anode Region”.  This was filed March 25, 1980, and issued Dec 14, 1982 to Hans W. Becke and Carl F. Wheatley, Jr.. This is the seminal patent of the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT), which led to 1999 world sales in excess of $500,000,000, the most recent year of data availability.   In 1994, the College of Engineering of the University of Maryland cited Mr. Wheatley for his invention of the IGBT and other contributions by awarding him their Centennial medal. This medal was given to the 100 most distinguished engineering graduates during the college’s 100 year existence.  Five years later, the University of Maryland recognized Mr. Wheatley as one of their most esteemed alumni innovators by naming him to the Hall of Fame of the A. James Clark School of Engineering.  Other recognitions include three awards from RCA, four from Harris Corporation, and five from the IEEE, including the honor of Life Fellow.

 

Mr. Wheatley retired from RCA in 1987.  At that time he was manager of the Rad Hard Power and Advanced Device Design Group.  He continues his work as a consultant to Intersil Semiconductor (successor to RCA, GE and Harris) and to Mission Research Corp.

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Oral History – C. Frank Wheatley

This History was provided by Mr. Wheatley

in January, 2001.

 

Following a two year and one half year commitment to the Army during WWII, I obtained a BSEE from the University of Maryland, graduating in 1951.  I joined RCA in July, 1951 and started right away in the Corporate Training Program, which consisted of several six week assignments at various RCA facilities, in order to see what different types of work was being done.  I had four separate training assignments.  Two of these assignments were directed related to early transistor/diode research and development at the Harrison plant Tube Division.  I’ll provide details later.  The other assignments were involved with Pickup and Phototubes (Lancaster Tube Plant), a Fire Control Computer (Camden) and a tape duplication amplifier the Record Engineering facility at Indianapolis.  I served as a production engineer on early transistors at Harrison in 1953 and 1954, and then moved to the new Somerville facility Semiconductor products Division, starting in 1955 as an Applications engineer.

 

In 1955, I designed and reduced to practice a monolithic power integrated circuit, which combined a power transistor and a “Barton” compensation diode upon a common germanium die, resulting in one of the world’s first integrated circuits.  This was done to improve thermal coupling between the devices.  In the early 1960s, I designed two noteworthy all-transistor circuits, including an auto radio (Automatic Radio Corp) and a high fidelity stereo amplifier (Heathkit AA-21).  These were world firsts when measured by performance, production capability and reliability.

 

Go To Wheatley Oral History, Page 2

COPYRIGHT © 2001 by Jack Ward.  All Rights Reserved.  http://www.transistormuseum.com

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