Born and raised in Salem, Oregon, he attended the Pacific Academy in Newburgh, Oregon prior to college. A private secondary school, it was during his time in this Quaker school where he first became interested in science, mathematics and physics.
He attended college at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon while living at home to help his family with the family farm. He completed a double major – Mathematics and Physics – in 1926. After graduation, he taught high school for one year. He then applied for and received a fellowship to Stanford University where he completed his master’s work in Physics.
He was recruited to work at Bell Labs and, after marrying, moved to the Bronx, New York in 1929. And, then, in the 1940s, when Bell Labs moved to Murray Hill, New Jersey, Gerald Pearson and his family purchased the Farmstead and were residents from 1945 – 1960.
While at Bell Labs, he was a research physicist. His early work on temperature-sensitive resistors led to 13 patents on thermistors. After World War II he was part of William Shockley’s group, where his experimental results were essential in developing models of semiconductor behavior. In 1954 his work on silicon rectifiers led to the first practical photovoltaic cell (solar cell), together with Daryl Chapin and Calvin Souther Fuller.
After retirement from AT&T in 1960, he and his wife moved to California where he was Professor of Electrical Engineering (1960-1971); Director, Center for Materials Research (1965-1966); and Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering, Solid State Electronics Laboratories (1971-1987), Stanford University, Stanford, California.
In 2008, he was inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
He married Mildred Cannoy in 1929 and they had two children.
Sources & More information:
Interview of Gerald Pearson by Lillian Hoddeson on 1976 August 23,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA
GERALD PEARSON BIO
Born: March 31, 1905, Salem, Oregon
Died: October 25, 1987, San Mateo, California
Resting Place: Skylawn Memorial Park, San Mateo, California
AB in Mathematics & Physics, Willamette University 1926
AM – Physics, Stanford University 1929
• 1929 – 1960 Bell Labs
• 1958 – 1987 Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford
Farmstead Owner: 1945 – 1960
• Contributions in development of semi-conductors and thermistors (13 patents)
• Work on silicon rectifiers which lead to first practical solar cell
Spouse: Mildred Cannoy (b. 1906; d.2000) m. 1929
Children: Ray Pearson, Carol Parlette
Parents: David and Sarah (Shafer) Pearson
Siblings: Two brothers
Gerald Pearson Grave Memorial 132663349
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