Robert N. Hall

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Robert N. Hall
Born(1919-12-25)December 25, 1919
DiedNovember 7, 2016(2016-11-07) (aged 96)
Alma materCalifornia Institute of Technology
Known for
AwardsMarconi Prize (1989)
National Inventors Hall of Fame (1994)
Scientific career
Fieldsengineering, applied physics
InstitutionsGeneral Electric

Robert Noel Hall (December 25, 1919 – November 7, 2016) was an American engineer and applied physicist. He demonstrated the first semiconductor laser and invented a type of magnetron commonly used in microwave ovens. He also contributed to the development of rectifiers for power transmission.


Robert N. Hall was born on December 25, 1919 in New Haven, Connecticut. He was first inspired by his inventor uncle, who showed him the wonders of small inventions and experimentation. After long studies at his local library, Hall decided to attempt controlled experiments of his own with his mother's approval. He built an 8-inch telescope, which produced a close-up view of Saturn. Later on, an interviewer from California Tech visited him and offered a scholarship to attend the university. Hall studied at California Institute of Technology for three years but had to leave for financial reasons. After working at Lockheed Aircraft as a tester, he returned to Caltech to finish up his studies and obtain his physics degree. Then General Electric hired him as a test engineer at Schenectady, NY. After four years at G.E., under the advice of Harper North, Hall obtained a Research Council Fellowship and returned to Caltech. He graduated in 1948 with his Ph.D. and returned to G.E. Schenectady research labs that summer.

While at G.E. during World War II, he developed a magnetron for radar jamming, which led to the development of the microwave oven.[1]

While studying the characteristics of p-i-n diodes used as power rectifiers, Hall had a key insight, which resulted in his being co-credited with William Shockley and W. T. Read, Jr., for the analysis of nonradiative carrier recombination in semiconductors. Hall developed the semiconductor laser in 1962, while working at General Electric in Schenectady, New York.[2] In the 1970s, Hall's work focused on photovoltaics and solar cells. He retired in 1987, having been granted 43 U.S. patents during his career.

Hall was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977 and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1978. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994. He died on November 7, 2016 at the age of 96.[3]


  1. ^ Hecker, Don R. (May 10, 2018). "Robert N. Hall, 96, Whose Inventions Are Everywhere, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  2. ^ Hall, Robert N.; G. E. Fenner; J. D. Kingsley; T. J. Soltys; R. O. Carlson (November 1962). "Coherent Light Emission From GaAs Junctions". Physical Review Letters. 9 (9): 366–369. Bibcode:1962PhRvL...9..366H. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.9.366.
  3. ^ "Robert Noel Hall Obituary". Albany Times Union. Retrieved March 17, 2017.

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