Issue Date: March 6, 2008
City: New York, NY
John Bardeen (1908-1991) made contributions in science that changed our world. After earning a Ph.D. in physics and math from Princeton University in 1936, Bardeen accepted a teaching position at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. He remained there until 1941, when he left to work as principal physicist at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Lab in Washington, D.C.
While in D.C., Bardeen turned down an invitation to join the distinguished scientists of the Manhattan Project, who were developing the atom bomb. When World War II ended, Bardeen accepted a research position at Bell Laboratories. There, along with Walter Brattain and William Shockley, he invented the transistor. Fifty times smaller than the vacuum tubes it replaced in televisions and radios, the transistor made possible the development of almost every modern electronic device, from telephones to missiles. The three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in 1956.
Bardeen left Bell to teach at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1951. There, along with Leon Cooper and John Schrieffer, Bardeen developed the BCS theory of superconductivity, which in 1972 earned him a second Nobel Prize in Physics.
John Bardeen was honored with a 2008 U.S. 41¢ stamp in the second se-tenant block of four of the American Scientists Series.