Robert H. Dennard

Robert H. Dennard

Dr. Robert H. Dennard has been an industry leader in the development of microelectronics in a career that has spanned 50 years. He is responsible for two major milestones in the progress of the industry - the invention of DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) and the development of scaling principles for miniaturization of MOS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor) transistors and their associated integrated circuits.

Dr. Dennard received the B.S. and M.S. Degrees in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, in 1954 and 1956 respectively, and the Ph.D. Degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University), Pittsburgh, PA in 1958. He then joined IBM Research Division where his early experience included the study of new digital devices and circuits for logic and memory applications, and the development of advanced data communication techniques. Since 1963 he has been at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY, where he has been involved in microelectronics research and development from the early days onward. His primary work has been in MOS transistors and integrated digital circuits using them. In 1967 he invented the one-transistor dynamic RAM memory cell used in most all computers today. He was also an advocate for word and bit line redundancy for DRAM yield improvement. It was first used in the IBM 64-Kbit DRAM and became a standard technique in the DRAM industry for nearly three decades since then.

With coworkers he developed the concept of MOS transistor scaling in 1972, which is often cited as a guiding principle for microelectronics. In 1973 he became manager of a research group which developed advanced design concepts for 1-micron NMOS silicon gate technology. This included demonstration of an exploratory 8-Kbit DRAM chip with dimensions scaled to 1 micron, greatly reducing the chip area using electron-beam pattern definition and the first reported use of reactive ion etching (RIE) in chip fabrication.

Dr. Dennard was appointed an IBM Fellow in 1979. He continued to manage a group which explored challenges of scaling MOS transistors to very small dimensions and produced an important generalization of the scaling rules. Also, modeling techniques to predict soft error rates in integrated circuits due to ionizing radiation were developed. This group contributed numerous papers on advances in the newly emerging complementary MOS (CMOS) technology, on operation of CMOS circuits at very-low temperature, and on test chips fabricated with 0.5 micron dimensions. For the first time exploratory devices and circuits with dimensions as small as 0.1 micron were produced and tested with good results.

Since the late 1980s Dr. Dennard has continued as an IBM Fellow to develop technical strategy for scaling CMOS logic and memory technologies to very small dimensions, anticipating future scaling challenges and studying new device and circuit approaches to continue progress in microelectronics. He an author of over 100 technical papers and an inventor of 52 issued US patents.

Dr. Dennard is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a member of the American Philosophical Society. He received the IEEE Cledo Brunetti Award in 1982. In 1988 he was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Reagan for his invention of the one-transistor dynamic RAM cell. He received the IRI Achievement Award from the Industrial Research Institute in 1989 and the Harvey Prize from Technion, Haifa, Israel, in 1990. Dr. Dennard was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio in 1997. In 2001 he received the Aachener and Munchener Prize for Technology and also was awarded the IEEE Edison Medal. He received the Vladimir Karapetoff Award from Eta Kappa Nu in 2002 and the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. Dr. Dennard received NEC’s C&C Prize in 2006 and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Electrical Engineering in 2007.

Dr. Dennard and his wife Jane Bridges live in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. They are active participants in Scottish Country Dancing and choral singing.


NAE Awards Winner
  • Draper
  • 2009
  • For his invention and contributions to the development of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), used universally in computers and other data processing and communication systems.