Robert W. Bower, an emeritus professor in the UC Davis Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, lives in a realm of acronyms. Within his field, he is famous for having developed a self-aligned gate MOSFET (metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor), also known as a SAGFET. Bower patented this design in 1969, during his tenure at California’s Hughes Research Laboratory.

Put more simply, Bower invented and refined the basic transistor structure used in the vast majority of computer and memory chips: the world’s most replicated artificial structure.

Bower enrolled in UC Berkeley after four years in the U.S. Air Force, and earned his undergraduate degree in physics in 1962. He obtained a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Caltech the following year, then joined the Hughes Research Laboratory. He returned to Caltech for a doctorate in applied physics in 1973, then worked mostly in industry for two decades.

Although he taught for one year at UCLA in the late 1970s, UC Davis became Bower’s academic home in 1987.

As recognition for his invention of SAGFET — and other research during an impressive career — Bower was elected to the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1997. He was, at the time, only the third University of California professor elected to the hall. That same year, he became the first UC faculty member to receive the Ronald H. Brown American Innovator Award from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In 1999, Bower was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the highest professional distinctions granted to an engineer. He was named a UC Davis emeritus professor the following year.

Bower remains busy, working now on novel solar cell devices and three-dimensional, high-density solid structures. He has published more than 80 journals and articles, and SAGFET is but one of more than two dozen patented inventions.

“As an innovator and technologist,” Bower reflected, in 1997, “I have had the wonderful opportunity to help shape the silicon world of the 20th century.”

Wikipedia Entry: Robert W. Bower

For more information on the College of Engineering’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, please email Oliver Ramsey.