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A bronze plaque describes the history of Shockley semiconductor lab

Last week, nearly 400 people crowded in front of 391 San Antonio Road in Mountain View to commemorate what was once the home of the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory.

Many regard the lab as the birthplace of Silicon Valley, where the first commercial silicon-based semiconductor device was created. The Computer History Museum put on the Aug. 15 event, unveiling a large statue of a silicon atom and a plaque honoring the lab.

But the person who started the lab, William Shockley, has a much darker legacy.

Shockley was a eugenicist who in his later years advocated for the voluntary sterilization of black Americans. In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, some questioned the idea of erecting a monument showcasing Shockley’s achievements. But most who attended this gathering did not want to talk about Shockley’s racist past.

“To me this event is not so much to commemorate William Shockley, but to talk about how Silicon Valley became such an important and unique place,” said Mountain View Mayor Leonard Siegel. He said the event was about the atom, not the man.

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