September 06, 1989 1 min read

William B. Shockley, the physicist whose contributions to the invention of the transistor earned him a share of the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics, and who used his notoriety to assert that blacks are genetically inferior to whites, died of cancer last month. He was 79.

In the mid-1960’s, as a professor of engineering science at Stanford University, Mr. Shockley began disseminating his theories of race and population. He contended that blacks score lower on standardized intelligence tests as a result of their heredity, not because of test bias or poorer educational opportunities. Arguing that no improvements to the educational and economic life of blacks would bring them up to the intellectual level of whites, he suggested that the government offer incentives to blacks and others with “defective genes” to undergo voluntary sterilization.

His appearances at college campuses provoked angry demonstrations and sparked discussions about the limits of academic freedom.

A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 1989 edition of Education Week as Milestones