Alum’s integrated circuit invention commemorated on postage stamp

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On Sept. 17, 1999, a UW-Madison electrical engineering alumnus joined the ranks of such eclectic 1960s icons as the Green Bay Packers, Roger Maris, The Beatles, Star Trek, the Ford Mustang and Barbie.

It was a “sticky” situation, so to speak.

At a public ceremony at the University of Texas-Dallas, the United States Postal Service unveiled a new postage stamp that depicts alumnus Jack Kilby’s 1958 invention, the integrated circuit.

The gummed side of Kilby’s stamp reads: “Independently invented by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, the integrated circuit was first available commercially in 1961. It led to smaller, inexpensive, mass-produced electronic circuits, revolutionizing the computer industry.”

Voters chose Jack Kilby’s revolutionary 1958 invention, the integrated circuit, as part of a 15-stamp series that commemorates the 1960s.


Kilby, 75, received his MS in electrical engineering in 1950 from UW-Madison. He developed the integrated circuit, or microchip, while an employee at Texas Instruments in Dallas. His invention truly paved the way for the modern world of microelectronics, now a $150 billion industry. Today descendants of Kilby’s chip drive everything from microwave ovens and VCRs to the state-of-the-art computer system the post office uses to sort thousands of pieces of mail per hour.

The stamp is the third honor the U.S. government has bestowed upon Kilby for his work. In 1970 he received the National Medal of Science, the country’s highest scientific honor; in 1990 he was awarded the National Medal of Technology, presented to those who have built new industries and strengthened the United States as a competitor. Kilby, who still resides in Dallas, also has received more than 20 major national and international awards.

At the Sept. 17 ceremony, attended by throngs of stamp collectors and technology devotees alike, Kilby downplayed the personal honor. “It’s nothing I ever thought about,” he says. “It was a long time ago. This is not strictly for me; this is for the chip itself, as I understand it.”

Through a nationwide ballot in May 1998, the public selected Kilby’s innovation and 14 other significant people, places, events and trends to become stamps that commemorate the 1960s. The ballot offered a total of 30 choices in five categories: people and events, arts and entertainment, sports, science and technology, and lifestyle. The 15-stamp set is part of “Celebrate the Century,” a 150-stamp collector’s series and educational program that salutes each decade of the 1900s.

Other subjects voters selected for the 1960s collection include “man walks on the moon,” “Super Bowl I,” “peace symbol,” “I have a dream,” “Green Bay Packers,” “The Beatles,” “Ford Mustang,” “the Vietnam War,” “Barbie doll,” “Roger Maris 61 in ’61,” “lasers,” “Woodstock,” “Star Trek,” and “the Peace Corps.”