Walter Houser Brattain was one of the trio of famous scientists who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956 for the invention of the transistor. Brattain shared the award with his colleagues, John Bardeen and William Shockley.
Brattain early years
Walter Brattain was born in Xiamen, China on 10 February 1902. He was the son of Ross R Brattain, a teacher at the Ting-Wen Institute and his wife Ottilie House Brattain a gifted mathematician.
The Brattain family returned to the USA in 1903, settling initially in Spokane, Washington before moving to a cattle ranch near Tonasket, Washington.
Walter Brattain attended Whitman College where he obtained a Bachelor's degree in 1924 in physics and mathematics.
Brattain went on to earn a Master of Arts at the University of Oregon in 1926, and then he studied for his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1929.
Brattain's career starts
After leaving university Walter Brattain applied to Bell Laboratories but they turned his application down. Instead he went to work for the National Bureau of Standards. Brattain soon applied again to Bell, and at the second attempt he was successful. After joining Bell he initially worked on copper oxide and semiconductor rectifiers, giving him a good grounding in semiconductor technology.
Brattain's latter years
Brattain remained at Bell until his retirement in 1967. During his retirement he held the post of Visiting Professor at Whitman College until his death in 1987.
Brattain's private life
Walter Brattain married twice. His first wife was named Keren Gilmore whom he married in 1935, and with whom he had one son, William G Brattain in 1943.
Sadly Keren died on 10th April 1957. Later he married Emma Jane Miller who already had three children.
In the 1970s Walter Brattain moved to Seattle, Washington. He lived here until he died in a nursing home on 13th October 1987.