Business History Review


Robert Noyce and Fairchild Semiconductor, 1957–1968

Leslie R. Berlina1

a1 LESLIE BERLIN is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at Stanford University.


Robert Noyce's career at Fairchild Semiconductor sheds light on several developments that were central to the growth of Silicon Valley and the semiconductor industry: entrepreneurship, technical leadership, and the management of growth in a high-technology company. Noyce served as Fairchild Semiconductors first head of R&D and as its general manager for the six years of the company's most dramatic growth. His technical orientation, personal interest in new technologies, and hands-off management style helped establish a culture at the firm that welcomed innovations in research, process technology, manufacturing, and marketing. As Fairchild Semiconductor grew into a multidivisional mass producer, Noyce's entrepreneurial leadership proved inadequate. Communication breakdowns between divisions, coupled with a series of poor decisions by the parent company, further contributed to the decline of Fairchild Semiconductor.

Leslie Berlin is a doctoral candidate in history at Stanford University. Her doctoral dissertation, “Robert Noyce and the Rise of Silicon Valley, 1956–1990,” uses Noyce's career at Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel, the Semiconductor Industry Association, and SEMATECH as a lens through which to examine how invention, technology, management, government, and culture shaped the development of the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. The dissertation, advised by David M. Kennedy and Timothy Lenoir, will be finished in the fall of 2001.