Transistor was invented in 1920’s

According to William Beaty

The transistor was invented around 1923, by physicist Dr. J. Edgar Lilienfeld, the father of the modern electrolytic capacitor. WHAT?!!! But everyone knows that it was invented at Bell Labs in 1947. Nope. The original transistor was a 1920s thin-film device deposited on glass. […] Dr. Lilienfeld also built MOSFETs using the natural oxide layer found on aluminum plates. He also built a working transistor radio and showed it around to various companies. It was ignored, possibly because he didn’t have a solid theory to explain how his invention worked, but more probably because it was weird and new.

For example, here’s a patent he filed in 1926.

See also “Al Gross and the difference between innovation and invention“.




  1. According to William Beaty answering “Why do so many people (by mistake) think that the bipolar transistor (BJT) would be a current-controlled device?”

    Here’s a critically important fact: the inventors of the BJT thought it was current-controlled. The updated Ebers-Moll model came years later, and does not have their name on it. (Why was it not the Shockley-Moll equation?)

    Hence, Bell Labs was pushing the “current controlled BJT” viewpoint. They pretended that alpha and beta were the critical factors, rather than Vbe and diode-equation of EB junction. Generation after generation of engineering students still get taken in by this. They believe that BJTs are current-controlled, they enter the electronics industry, and find that their hfe-based designs all fail because of temperature effects and the wide variation in hfe between transistors of the same type. The smart students learn to reject the capacitor-coupled hfe-based design viewpoint, and instead use the Vbe transconductance equation, diff amps, common-emitter, and cascode circuits.

    I personally suspect that this may not have been Bell Labs’ honest mistake. Instead it may have been a crafty business move, because FET transistors had already been invented twenty years earlier, roughly 1923 by Lilienfeld. Bell Labs was working to find a patentable work-around. (Bell labs isn’t scientists. It’s a business.) They stumbled on the BJT, a non-FET version. But then they concealed this whole aspect of transistor history.

    Think about it: if they freely admitted to USPTO examiners that their new transistor was voltage-controlled, their patent may have been rejected. After all, they just seemed to be re-inventing the FET which was already in the public domain, with older patents expired after 17 years!!!

    Hence, they pretend that BJTs are controlled by base current, not by Vbe, and hope the courts won’t notice how much the BJT resembles the FET. The FETs are controlled by a reverse-biased depletion zone, while BJTs are also also controlled by a depletion zone, but it’s part of a forward-biased diode, so the “leakage current” of a BJT is enormous when compared to an FET. But both are voltage-input devices.

    Why didn’t Bell Labs explore the FET in 1945? They did, of course. That was the whole point of their project. They replicated Lilienfeld’s FETs, and made them produce gain. They even published the research in the same journal where they announced the first BJT. But then their attempted FET patents were all disallowed based on prior art. The transistor had already been invented two decades earlier. But fortunately they’d stumbled on an alternate topoplogy which didn’t fall under the expired FET patents of 1925 era.

    To make money selling transistors, Bell Labs had to create a disingenuous publicity campaign to convince the world that “the transistor was invented in 1947,” that BJT transistors are current-controlled, and finally that Lilienfeld’s FET transistors don’t exist. They insinuated that Lilienfeld’s patents were purely theoretical, and that Lilienfeld had no working devices. Wrong, the truth was the exact opposite; Lilienfeld was an experimental physicist, building genuine transistors, but had no semiconductor theory to explain them. Apparently he was even showing around a working transistor radio back before 1930 (and of course Bell Labs had published their 1948 paper on their building successful Lilienfeld FET transistors!)


  2. I notice the Germans used printed circuits in magnetic mine in 1941 and direction finder receiver in 1944 I understand america used printed circuit in proximity fuse in 1945 so inventions like transistors are older than late 1940s


  3. I have heard that the transistor was first established in 1836 by Louis D. Walton but it was censored and in the following years the Army/Military who made tests with it used it in their technology. It wasn’t meant for public use and nobody shall know about it. A few years after that the first UFO sightings were made. My client who gave me these “top secret” details also said that he knows from his grandfather that the transistor was obvoiusly linked to secret UFO projects. I’ve seen some of the paperwork of the first transistor. It was made of a plastic like object with six edges and in the center there was the semiductor material made of selenium/seleniumoxide + mercury compunds of other substances (I couldn’t find out what these actually were). It had 5 connections in total. That is all I have been able to find out so far.


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