Created on Wednesday, 21 May 2008 20:00
Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 May 2008 20:00
Morgan Sparks, a Bell Laboratories researcher who made major contributions to the creation of the earliest digital devices, died May 3, 2008, at the home of his daughter in Fullerton, CA.
He was born in Pagosa Springs, CO, on July 6, 1916, and graduated from Rice University in 1938, and from the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 1943 with a doctorate in physical chemistry. Upon joining Bell Labs he worked on a naval torpedo contract, and after the war joined the core group of scientists who had developed an improved electronic switch, the "transistor" for which three members, William Shockley, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen, would win the Nobel Prize. Sparks, who was the last surviving member of the Shockley group, is credited with creating the first "junction transistor," an improved device that was practical enough for use in consumer devices.
Starting in the mid-1950s, he rose through management within the Labs, in the semiconductor and microelectronics areas. He was a vice president of both Bell Labs and Western Electric Company by 1972, the year he was appointed president of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM, where he served until his retirement from Bell in 1981. He was dean of the Robert O. Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico until 1984, and was active in civic life in Albuquerque throughout retirement.
On April 30, 1949, he married Shockley's secretary, Elizabeth MacEvoy, who in 2006 preceded him in death after 57 years of marriage. Starting in 1965, he brought his family to ski in the Mad River Valley, and he is survived by a daughter, Margaret Potter, and son, Gordon, both of Waitsfield, another daughter Patricia Fusting of Fullerton, CA, and son Morgan of Burlington. A memorial service will be held May 28, 2008, in Albuquerque.