News


Valley's birthplace haunted by Nobel laureate's dark past

Physicist William Shockley may have introduced silicon to the valley, but efforts to save his former lab building in Mountain View have been stifled by Shockley's controversial views on race and intelligence.

Developer Merlone Geier is offering to buy Shockley's former lab building at 391 San Antonio Road -- currently housing the International Halal Market -- to expand a major redevelopment next door. The owner's unwillingness to sell seems to be all that stands in the way of scraping a site acknowledged as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

Proposals made by former employees of Shockley to preserve the cinderblock building as a silicon museum or designate it a city or state historic landmark were passed up by officials in the 1980s and 1990s.

Jacques Beaudouin, a Mountain View resident who once worked for Shockley at 391 San Antonio Road, said at least one of the mayors he spoke with raised concerns over Shockley's beliefs, and he says others probably also shared the concern but never said so.

"People were scared and afraid," Beaudouin said. It took 13 years for a plaque to be installed on the sidewalk commemorating the site as Silicon Valley's birthplace. He doesn't doubt that his efforts would have been much easier if Shockley's story were a brighter one.

"That's my personal feeling and the personal feeling of a lot of people," Beaudouin said.

Getting nowhere

Beaudouin said he began working to save 391 San Antonio Road in 1987. When the city was celebrating its 75th anniversary, he saw that officials were making many claims about the city, but not birthplace of Silicon Valley. He says he began speaking to some city officials until he was "blue in the face," about Shockley and his lab at 391 San Antonio Road, but got nowhere.

Finally, during her term as mayor in 1998, the late Rosemary Stasek had a plaque installed in the sidewalk declaring Shockley's lab the birthplace of Silicon Valley, which Beaudouin co-wrote with another former Shockley employee, Hans Queisser.

"Rosemary was the one who really pushed it, made it happen," Beaudouin said.

But nothing was ever done to guarantee preservation of the birthplace of Silicon Valley and Beaudouin stopped his efforts. "I got tired of going over and over the same thing," Beaudouin said.

Beaudouin disputes Palo Alto's claim that the Hewlett Packard garage is the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Beaudouin recalls that Shockley knew Bill Hewlett and once told him, "Bill, you should work on silicon, silicon is where the future is." It took several years for Hewlett-Packard to catch on, Beaudouin said.

Beaudouin says the building now used by Halal International Market at 391 San Antonio Road is the same one used by Shockley's team from 1956-1961 before moving to Page Mill Road in Palo Alto. Only the front facade has been changed.

Controversial views

Shockley shared a Nobel prize in 1956 for the invention of the transistor but reportedly said his work in eugenics in the last three decades of his life was the most important thing he'd done. He wrote a book called "Shockley on Eugenics," about the discredited ideas of genetic and racial superiority espoused by Nazis and some American elite in the early 20th century, but well debunked by Shockley's day.

Shockley once proposed that those with an IQ of less than 100 be paid $1,000 for every point below 100 to not have children, claiming the large proportion of children born to those with a low IQ was causing a reverse evolution. He claimed that intelligence formed along racial lines, and races with higher IQs were more advanced. He denied he was a racist, a term he claimed was an "epithet" meant to hurt his self esteem in a TV interview in 1974.

"The major cause of the American negro's intellectual and social deficits is hereditary and racially genetic in origin, and thus not remediable to a major degree by practical improvements in the environment," he said in the 1974 interview, which can be seen on Youtube.

Perhaps his most controversial quote came in 1982 when he was asked if his views amounted to racism. He reportedly said "If you found a breed of dog that was unreliable and temperamental, why shouldn't you regard it in a less favorable light?"

People reportedly picketed whenever Shockley spoke publicly. In 1989 he died at Stanford, where he taught electrical engineering. No funeral was held.

Strong reactions

His views still elicit strong reactions.

"I'm not a Shockley fan, they don't get anymore racist than him," said City Council member Laura Macias.

Macias said she would be willing to commemorate the building's history, but not Shockley himself.

Beaudouin showed drawings of a historical display that was to be installed years ago at the San Antonio shopping center. Large steel wafers stick out of the ground, one of which says "Birthplace of Silicon Valley" and and has a display titled "The William Shockley story."

Beaudouin says the proposal never went anywhere and he was never told why.

In 2009 officials in Auburn, Calif. faced a similar dilemma when Shockley's widow left 28 acres for a park to be named after Shockley, sparking public outcry.

"I cannot fathom how officials in Auburn would have the gall to name an area park after a white supremacist and think that would be readily accepted by residents," Barry Broad, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council, told an Auburn newspaper.

Beaudouin says Shockley still deserves recognition.

Controversy over his views "doesn't change the fact he contributed enormously to the development of the transistor and the integrated circuit," Beaudouin said. "Everyone who walks around with a cell phone owes it to William Shockley. I think he was superb scientist, there's no question about it."

Beaudouin said the experience working for Shockley for seven years in the early 1960s "was a good life." Working conditions were not intolerable as described by the group Shockley called the "traitorous eight," who famously left his lab in 1956 to start Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel and other companies that commercialized the silicon transistor and integrated circuit.

Comments

Posted by Mr. Nice, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jun 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm

He was a very brave Genius/Man to have spoken the truth.


Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 23, 2012 at 11:44 am

"Freedom of speech for me, but not for thee..."

I'll take an honest racist over a sniveling hypocrite any day of the week. The jury is still out on eugenics. Nobody seems to mind that Margaret Sanger was the strongest advocate of eugenics of her day. And this quote is HILARIOUS:


"I cannot fathom how officials in Auburn would have the gall to name an area park after a white supremacist and think that would be readily accepted by residents," Barry Broad, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council, told an Auburn newspaper.

The Jewish Community Relations Council supports open apartheid in Israel. They're deporting blacks over there this week.

Whatever his views on race, Shockley contributed mightily to what this Valley has become. Andrew Jackson perpetrated open genocide, and his face is on the $20 bill.


Posted by resident, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jun 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

It is unfortunate that the MV voice is so PC. A discussion of eugenics does not make one racist. In fact Shockley's theories have been verified in numerous publications such as Charles Murray's The Bell Curve. There is a correlation between race and intelligence. It looks like Laura Macias can't accept taht fact. She only represents the communists in MV anyway and she probably has no issue commemorating communists like Ceasar Chavez, Lenin, Castro, Marx, & Obama.


Posted by Remember the good, a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Mountain View should be proud of the astounding achievements a few brilliant scientists named Robert Noyce, Gordon Moore, and yes, William Shockley, among others, who changed the world forever at 391 San Antonio Road. Those engineers went on to found Intel, Applied Micro Devices and scores of other local semiconductor companies. They should be honored, applauded, remembered.

Jacques Beaudouin should be further applauded for helping "Silicon Valley" remember where it all started.

Working in opposition, however, are the apparently bumbling and timid City leaders who would allow the historic site to be bulldozed, forever burying a grand moment in world history, rather than stand up to occasional misguided sniping about Shockley's personal opinions. That building would already be protected otherwise.

Show a little backbone, people. That is not what the company was about; one has nothing to do with another. In fact, Wikipedia's Shockley Semiconductor page doesn't even mention it:
Web Link

Time goes by. Views change. Let Shockley's opinions die with him in order to recognize the company's place in history along with the rest of the team, who had nothing to do with his views.

If not already done, the planning department should consider adding 391 San Antonio Rd to the protective Historic Register.


Posted by seriously?, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 23, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Old Ben: "The jury is still out on eugenics."

resident: "There is a correlation between race and intelligence."

Shockley: "The major cause of the American negro's intellectual and social deficits is hereditary and racially genetic in origin."

To really make this scientific, we should try making white people slaves for a hundred years, then treat them as second-class citizens for another hundred years, and THEN do these IQ tests.


Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 24, 2012 at 8:57 am

Ever heard of the Irish, "seriously?"?


Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 24, 2012 at 11:34 am

How about the Chinese? Ever heard of them?


Posted by seriously, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Heard of both. What would you like to point out about Irish or Chinese people?


Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 25, 2012 at 6:58 am

Here's a quote from you:

"To really make this scientific, we should try making white people slaves for a hundred years, then treat them as second-class citizens for another hundred years, and THEN do these IQ tests."

That's already been done, to the Irish. As a non-white "control", it has also been done to the Chinese. I think we can safely say that "the jury is out on eugenics."

None of this has to do with the matter at hand: honoring Shockley's scientific achievements. I could cite any number of geniuses in science and the arts who harbor wild and controversial beliefs. That's not the point. The point is that unique breakthroughs that further human progress should be honored, and Shockley is central to this Valley.

The word "racist" didn't even exist 100 years ago.


Posted by Observer, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 25, 2012 at 7:37 am

Shockley was a genius in his field. I wouldn't be so quick to brand him a white supremest based on his research into intelligence. To do so would inhibit future studies on intelligence every time the issue of race came up. The problem is that race and socioeconomic factors will always come up in studies on intelligence as will ethnicity. See Flynn's 2007 book "What is Intelligence". A lot of the shadows cast on Shockley was driven by the liberal media (such as in this piece). To do so would inhibit future studies on intelligence every time the issue of race came up.


Posted by Incredible, a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

Most geniuses do not conform to societies opinions, but that does not say they are not geniuses because they will not go with the rest of the sheep.
If his opinion is what you believe is more important than what he created, you should then have the integrity not to touch or use anything, that has been invented thanks to him in the first place. Have some integrity and then do not use a cell phone anything that has his signature on it in the first place. I cannot stand bigots.


Posted by emdfl, a resident of another community
on Jun 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm

(Thomas) Edison and (Henry) Ford both had some seriously politically incorrect ideas in their time (at least by today's standards).


Posted by James, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm

"He wrote a book called "Shockley on Eugenics,” about the discredited ideas of genetic and racial superiority espoused by Nazis and some American elite in the early 20th century, but well debunked by Shockley's day."

This is a lie. Currently, the Chinese company, BGI is conducting the world's most extensive study on the genetic architecture of individual differences in intelligence. And one of the lead investigators openly endorses Eugenics, which is not surprising since the idea is very popular in China. As for race, genes and IQ, if the idea of genetic differences was "debunked," why in 2009, did the prestigious journal Nature hold a symposium entitled: "Darwin 200: Should scientists study race and IQ?"


Posted by Duke, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 25, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Interested parties may want to listen to this NPR radio program aired in 2006! Called: Electronics Pioneer William Shockley's Legacy

Web Link


Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

If you hate Shockley because of his position on eugenics, it logically follows that you must hate feminist icon Margaret Sanger for the same reason.


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 26, 2012 at 9:02 am

Great discussion. I tend to agree with those that make a distinction between Shockley's contribution to high tech, and his views on eugenics. Though its understandable to have emphatic positions on these 2 aspects of his character, we overgeneralize by allowing one to overshadow the other to point that we refuse to see any good, and just the bad.

Moreover, I think it is irresponsible for any/all politicians to encourage this type of black/white, polarized thinking. They set the example for how issues are discussed in the public sphere, and instead of pandering to partisan interests and/or prejudices, they should be standing up for a more nuanced and intelligent approach to issues. If you want to be called a leader in the community, then lead.

Don't follow your voters' most primal reactions.


Posted by John, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2012 at 11:42 am

There is a tremendous arrogance in presuming to know the physical and mental attributes for which nature will be selecting. The general assumption is that future conditions will be similar to present conditions. But past earth history would indicate just the opposite. Otherwise dinosaurs would still be ruling the earth. We really do not know what traits are optimal unless we know the conditions under which these traits will be operating. The future is always the unknown. The traits that may be useful in a highly technological society may be less so in a hunter gatherer society. Who knows how long this technological period will last. It may be short lived. This does not even get into the question of what is intelligence and how is it measured.


Posted by Aaron, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm

As far as I'm aware, every test ever conducted has shown that there are racial differences in intelligence. If there were any test on which the races scored the same, the public schools would use that testing methodology, and they'd get rid of the "achievement gap" in a week.

Just because it's offensive doesn't magically make it false.


Posted by DCS, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm

In this case, I think that a compromise can be made. There is no rule that a plaque has to wholly contain a positive statement regarding Shockley. It can simply state the most important aspects of his scientific career and state that his views on eugenics were controversial at best, but mostly inappropriate (or stronger worded).


Posted by Sabrina, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Sabrina is a registered user.

"'I'm not a Shockley fan, they don't get anymore racist than him,' said City Council member Laura Macias."

Laura Macias must have been paid by Merlone Geier to say this. What she said is absolutely absurd given our country's deep history of racism. Shockley did not lynch African Americans or burn down their churches. It is so ridiculous to paint him in this light.

This is just a ploy being conducted by Merlone Geier to divide us so they can flatten a historic building and ruin Mountain View. If this goes through, the developers will be laughing all the way to the bank.


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