Kilby and Noyce were electrical engineers who in the late 1950s, working separately, invented the integrated circuit, better known as the microchip.
Jack St Clair Kilby was born on 8 November 1923 in Jefferson City, Missouri, but grew up in Kansas where his father ran an electrical company. He enrolled at the University of Illinois but his studies were interrupted by war service. He graduated in electrical engineering in 1947.
In 1958, Kilby was employed at Texas Instruments (TI) in Dallas. Shortly afterwards he came up with the idea of putting all the elements of an electronic circuit on a single silicon chip. From 1978 to 1985, Kilby was Professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M University. He officially retired from TI in 1983, but maintained a significant involvement with the company for the rest of his life. During his career he registered more than 60 patents and in 2000 shared the Nobel Prize for Physics. He died on 20 June 2005.
Robert Noyce was born on 12 December 1927 in Grinnell, Iowa, the son of a minister. He studied at Grinnell College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1955, he joined a team of scientists headed by William Shockley, one of the inventors of the transistor. In 1957, he and seven colleagues left and founded Fairchild Semiconductor. At around the same time as Kilby, Noyce conceived the idea of the integrated circuit. In 1968, Noyce and his friend Gordon Moore founded Intel, which became one of the world's largest manufacturers of microchips. Noyce died on 3 June 1990.
After the simultaneous invention of the integrated circuit, TI and Kilby were the first to patent their device, but Fairchild and Noyce's was easier to mass-produce. After years of litigation, TI and Fairchild agreed to cross-license their devices.
The integrated circuit made it possible to incorporate a roomful of equipment into a device that could be held in the palm of the hand. It also made electronic equipment dramatically cheaper to manufacture. Microchips now control most electrical devices, including all computers.