Memorial Tributes: Volume 27
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  • HARRY C. GATOS (1921-2015)



    HARRY CONSTANTINE GATOS, a pioneer in the field of electronic materials, visionary leader, and eminent professor, passed away February 13, 2015, at the age of 93. He was a professor in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1962–90), and professor emeritus since 1990.

    He is remembered foremost for his role in spawning a new area of interdisciplinary study in electronic materials, drawing together researchers with expertise in semiconductor materials, chemistry, physics, and electrical engineering. He is also well known for his advocacy of music and for being an accomplished flutist.

    Harry was born December 27, 1921, in Amphissa, Greece, the son of Constantine B. and Paraskevi (née Merintzos) Gatos. Education was highly important in the Gatos family. His father and two older brothers were lawyers, but Harry was encouraged to be a scientist. He studied chemistry at the University of Athens and received his BS in 1945. A year later he came to the United States to further his study of chemistry and received his MA in 1948 from Indiana University. He did further graduate study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received his PhD in inorganic chemistry in 1950.

    He was a research associate in MIT’s Department of Metallurgy until 1952, when he left to do research on the corrosion and surface behavior of metallic materials at the Engineering Research Laboratory of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company in Wilmington, Delaware.

    In 1955 he became a naturalized citizen and returned to MIT, where he joined the Lincoln Laboratory in the chemistry section of the Solid State Group. Two years later he was appointed the first leader of the Solid State Chemistry and Metallurgy Group. In 1959 he was appointed associate head of the Solid State Division and subsequently head (1964), overseeing research groups focused on both materials and devices.

    During his time at Lincoln Laboratory he was also a visiting lecturer at Brandeis University (1956–57) and visiting associate professor in MIT’s Department of Metallurgy (1961). In 1962 he was appointed professor jointly in the Departments of Metallurgy and Electrical Engineering, and divided his time between the MIT campus and Lincoln Laboratory until 1965.

    In 1962 he formed the first Electronic Materials Group in a materials department. For years it was the only academic group concentrated on the study and establishment of relationships between crystal growth parameters, structural and chemical composition, and electronic properties. This group became the selected destination for postdocs and visiting scientists from around the world.

    An authority in the field of chemical and solid state materials, Professor Gatos pursued multidisciplinary research interests in the physics, chemistry, structure, metallurgy, and surface of electronic materials, including semiconductor, superconductor, and optical materials. In the 1950s, while most of the research in semiconductors was focused on germanium (Ge) and silicon (Si), he switched his research emphasis to the newer II-VI and III-V compound semiconductors, which offered a rich field for basic surface studies as well as practical applications.

    His research led to the identification of the polarity effect in II-VI and III-V compound semiconductors (e.g., the difference in the surface bonding and structure of the GaAs <111> surfaces). His development of an atomistic bonding model of the surface enabled predictions of new chemical, structural, and electronic phenomena and clarified observations of surface orientation effects on etching, surface state density, chemical reactivity, and crystal growth. One example of the consequences of this work was the marked improvement in the growth of defect-free compound semiconductor materials. He published the first comprehensive review on the etching characteristics of elemental and compound semiconductors.1

    Professor Gatos also was a pioneer in the development of surface photovoltage spectroscopy (SPS) for the study of III-V surfaces. Measurements of the photovoltage as a function of the energy of the incident light, along with analysis of the features of the associated transitions, enabled direct determination of the energy position and the dynamic parameters of the surface states. The SPS studies led Gatos and his team to discover new surface-related piezoelectric, photomechanical, and piezochemisorption effects in noncentrosymmetric compound semiconductors. The SPS technique is now widely applied to the study of interfaces and surfaces of wide-bandgap semiconductors (e.g., SiC and GaN).

    He later turned his attention to the problems of CMOS Si technology. Using a quantitative analysis of an electron-beam-induced current with high-resolution electron beam scanning, he was able to establish high-resolution profiles of the carrier recombination processes at the surface and bulk Si materials. He also applied this approach to the study of GaAs surfaces.

    Besides the huge technical impacts of his research, Professor Gatos made other immense contributions to advance the materials community. He was committed to creating forums and scientific meetings for all classes of technological materials researchers, from basic science to engineering, engaged in both theory and practical applications.

    He cofounded the Materials Research Society and was its first president (1973–76). He served as vice president (1964) and president (1967) of the Electrochemical Society (ECS); under his tenure, the Solid State Science and Technology section of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society was created. He also founded the journal Surface Science and was its editor in chief (1964–92).

    Professor Gatos received numerous honors, including the ECS Solid State Science and Technology Award (1975), designation as an honorary ECS member (1978), the ECS Edward Goodrich Acheson Medal and Prize (1982), and election to the National Academy of Engineering (1983). He also received the NASA Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1975), Gold Cross of Order of Merit of the Polish Republic (1980), International Gallium Arsenide and Related Compounds Award (1992), and Heinrich Welker Gold Medal (1992). He was a fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    In 1991 Sumitomo Electric Industries established the Harry C. Gatos Distinguished Lecture and Prize in recognition of his pioneering research and development and application of advanced materials (and in recognition of the many students Professor Gatos brought from Japan). He was the first recipient of the award. He also received an honorary DS degree from Indiana University (1983).

    In service to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, he was appointed to the Committee on a Commercially Developed Space Facility (1988–89), NAE Membership Policy Committee (1987–90), Committee on Process Challenges in Compound Semiconductors (1986–88), Committee on Industrial Applications of the Microgravity Environment (1986–88), Space Applications Board (1985–89), and Advisory Committee on the USSR and Eastern Europe (1979–85).

    Beyond his considerable technical contributions, Professor Gatos is remembered for his passion for music. He was recognized as an accomplished amateur flutist and also played the viola. He frequently played chamber music with musicians of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestras. He was a board member of the Longy School of Music of Bard College, Cambridge Society for Early Music, and James Pappoutsakis Memorial Fund (which encourages “promising flute players who are studying in the Boston area”). His graduate students would hear Professor Gatos playing his flute in his office during the lunch hour. He also performed at the annual holiday concert-dinner at his home in Weston, MA, which was designed around a living-dining-music room with outstanding acoustics—his residence was selected as one of 20 Architechural Record “Record Houses of 1965” and featured in the July 1966 issue of House and Garden.

    Professor Gatos’ extensive impacts on the technical community continue through the MRS, which has grown to over 12,000 members from over 90 countries, the journal Surface Science, and the contributions of his students and visiting scientists from around the world who have gone on to leading positions in academia, government, and industry. In 2015 a special symposium was held at the fall MRS meeting to honor his legacy.

    He married Dawn Spiropoulos in 1950, with whom he had three children: Niki Ann, Constantine Harry (“Cobey”), and Pamela Dawn. He married Ronna M. Galipeau in 1988.

    Gatos HC, Lavine MC. 1965. Progress in Semiconductors, vol 9:1–45. Also see: Gatos HC. 1994. Semiconductor electronics and the birth of the modern science of surfaces. Surface Science 299/300:1–23.