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OBITUARIES / Passings / Morgan Sparks

Helped develop better transistor

May 10, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Morgan Sparks, 91, a former member of the Bell Telephone Laboratories scientific team who played a crucial role in the development of the improved, second- generation transistor in the early 1950s, died of congestive heart failure May 3 at his daughter's home in Fullerton.

Sparks, who joined Bell Labs in New Jersey during World War II, worked on the junction transistor, an improvement on the original transistor invented by Bell scientists in 1947 and designed to replace vacuum tubes.

Announced by Bell in late 1951, the junction transistor was described as being much more efficient and consuming far less power than the original type.

The tiny, revolutionary devices were soon being used in electronic devices such as portable radios.

After leaving Bell, Sparks served as director of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque from 1972 until his retirement in 1981.

He then accepted an appointment to the Robert O. Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico, where he served as dean from 1981 to 1984.

Born July 6, 1916, in Pagosa Springs, Colo., Sparks earned bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry at Rice University and a doctorate in physical chemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign as a Rockefeller Foundation fellow in 1943.

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