Inside Clemson

Jay W. Lathrop, Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering – October 9, 2022

Jay Wallace Lathrop of Asheville, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, died on October 9, 2022.

Lathrop entered the University of Maine as a 14-year-old and decided he wanted to become a physicist. At 15, he transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he received bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in physics.

Lathrop was employed for seven years by the National Bureau of Standards/Diamond Ordnance Fuze Laboratories in Washington, D.C.; for 10 years by Texas Instruments; and for 21 years by Clemson University, retiring in 1988.

He was a primary instigator of the technology revolution that occurred with development of “the chip” in the 1950s. It was through his work at NBS/DOFL that photography was first used in the fabrication of transistors, a procedure for which his group coined the word “photolithography” and which is still in use today. For this work, he and members of his team were awarded the Army’s highest civilian achievement 1958.

At Texas Instruments, he worked with Jack Kilby, Nobel laureate and co-inventor of the integrated circuit (microchip). The other microchip co-inventor was his graduate school friend, Robert Noyce. Lathrop developed methods of fabricating microchips using the technique he had pioneered at NBS/DOFL and became director of Advanced Technology for the Semiconductor Division at Texas Instruments.

At Clemson, he directed the Electrical Engineering Department’s transition from vacuum tubes to solid state technology. He was namesake and first recipient of the IEEE’s “Jay Lathrop Outstanding South Carolina EE Education Award.” He was a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE). In 2011, he was inducted into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists.

His full obituary is posted online.